William March: Kevin Beckner testing the water for another run for Hillsborough Clerk of Court

Also, prominent local Republicans have had their appointments rescinded by Gov. DeSantis, and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor joins in calling for resignation of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.
Kevin Beckner (left) challenged Pat Frank for Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court in 2016. Beckner has confirmed he’s interested, but won’t run against Frank again if she chooses to seek re-election.
Kevin Beckner (left) challenged Pat Frank for Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court in 2016. Beckner has confirmed he’s interested, but won’t run against Frank again if she chooses to seek re-election.
Published Feb. 27, 2019

Beckner tests the water

Political insiders say Kevin Beckner is testing the water for another run for Hillsborough County Clerk of Court in 2020, and Beckner confirmed this week he's interested.

Friends of Beckner have been checking with prominent local Dems about his chances of support in 2020.

"I'm certainly considering it but I've made no definite decisions right now," Beckner said this week.

Beckner, a former county commissioner, is currently director of the county Civil Service Board, but there's a bill in the Legislature, backed by several elected county officials, to abolish that board.

Beckner has been considered a rising Democratic star in the county since upsetting Republican Brian Blair for a county commission seat in 2008, but his standing among local Dems suffered in 2016 when he challenged Clerk Pat Frank in a bruising primary.

Beckner said he won't run against Frank again if she chooses to seek re-election, but, "I haven't heard any official announcement from Ms. Frank."

Frank hasn't made a public announcement, but local Democratic insiders expect she won't run again.

Republican County Commissioner Sandy Murman has already filed for the seat, but has also said in the past she didn't want to run against Frank.

Local Repubs lose appointments

At least four prominent local Republicans are among appointees of former Gov. Rick Scott whose appointments Gov. Ron DeSantis has rescinded since taking office, but three of those four said they hope DeSantis will consider reinstating them.

The rescinded appointments included Hung Mai and Steve Swindal to seats on the Port Tampa Bay Board, Dipa Shah to the board of Hillsborough Community College and Michael Millett to the Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority.

Millett said he won't reapply, and declined further comment. The other three said they hope their appointments will be renewed.

DeSantis has now rescinded some 215 Scott appointments to dozens of state boards and commissions, including many Scott made just before leaving office. Those last-minute appointments surprised many Republicans who saw them as a violation of the protocol of leaving such appointments to the incoming governor.

DeSantis rescinded 46 appointments in January, including Millett and Shah, but said he would consider some for reappointment later. A new list this week included Mai and Swindal.

Most of the appointments would have required state Senate approval to become final, but some are already serving while awaiting confirmation. Shah was first appointed to the HCC board in 2015 and Swindal to the port board in 2008; both are board chairs.

Shah, Swindall and Mai, who's been on the port board for three months, all said they'll reapply.

"I'm not taking it personally … Gov. DeSantis will want to build his own team," said Shah.

Swindal and Mai are both heavyweight GOP donors who supported Adam Putnam in the 2018 GOP primary against DeSantis, but said they don't believe that's the reason their appointments were rescinded.

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Castor backs move against Acosta

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, has joined 18 other House Democrats including four other Floridians in calling for the resignation of U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta because of a plea deal he agreed to as prosecutor in a 2007 Palm Beach sex trafficking case.

Castor signed a letter, along with Florida Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and other Democrats, saying the plea deal was "despicable" and "a clear abuse of power for political gain."

Charged with internationally recruiting and trafficking dozens of underage girls, Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy investor and friend of powerful individuals including Donald Trump, was allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges and served 13 months in jail, with daily work release.

In a lawsuit by some of the victims, a judge ruled this week that the plea agreement violated federal victims' rights law by keeping the deal secret from them. A Miami Herald investigation late last year revealed details of Acosta's involvement.

Acosta had been appointed U.S. Attorney for Florida's Southern District by former President George W. Bush; he was appointed labor secretary by Trump in 2017.

"The girls were sexually abused by a multimillionaire serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and his cronies, and then abused again by prosecutors who failed the victims in a colossal miscarriage of justice," Castor said in a statement on the case.