Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, long known as one of the top fundraising figures on the local political scene, is on his way to building another big campaign bundle — but unlike some previous elections, he may be forced to spend much of it to defend his seat in 2022.
In his first month as a candidate, Hagan raised $96,965, more than $3,000 a day, including 82 contributions of the maximum $1,000.
In the past, Hagan has sometimes raised big campaign war chests, which tends to discourage competing candidates, then refunded much of the money or contributed it to charity after the election. In 2014, for example, he raised $304,805, ran unopposed, then donated thousands to charity and partially refunded hundreds of contributions.
In 2018, Hagan raised a whopping $555,849, more than any other candidate for county office except Sheriff Chad Chronister.
But he then faced an unexpectedly stiff challenge for District 2 from a comparatively little-known Democrat, Angela Birdsong, who raised and spent only $33,846 but lost by less than 5 points. Hagan, meanwhile, spent the bulk of his campaign fund, refunding or donating less than $100,000.
Political insiders say that was a sign of the county’s gradual Democratic drift, and Birdsong said this week she’s interested in running again — depending in part on what the district lines look like after redistricting.
One of the three maps chosen for further study last week by the commissioners, a map proposed by Commissioner Pat Kemp, would give Birdsong at least part of what she wants: removing much of the GOP-voting Thonotosassa area from Hagan’s District 2 and adding much of the University of South Florida area.
If Birdsong won and the four other incumbent Democrats running next year all held their seats — which isn’t certain — it that would give the Dems a 6-1 majority.
It would also add what locals including former Commissioner Les Miller say would be a historically unprecedented second black member to the board.
However, some fellow Democrats including Miller have criticized Kemp’s proposal, objecting to the removal of the USF area from the minority-access District 3. Kemp responds that her map substantially increases the percentage and population of black voters in District 3.