A Republican primary is building in what’s likely to be a competitive battle to replace state Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, as Hillsborough County School Board candidate Karen Gonzalez Pittman and GOP activist Jake Hoffman have both switched into the race.
The two have both filed to run in the newly drawn District 65, covering territory from Toledo’s South Tampa-based district. Toledo has announced she’ll leave the seat open to run for Congress.
Jen McDonald, who ran a strong but unsuccessful race for county commissioner in 2020, is the only Tampa Democrat in the race so far.
Hoffman, a South Tampa resident, previously was filed to run in the West Tampa district of Democratic Rep. Susan Valdes, but acknowledged he was interested in the Toledo seat, where he resides, if it came open.
Pittman formerly was challenging School Board incumbent Karen Perez, and had raised $31,515 through February, second only to Perez.
Gonzalez said she’s switching because, “I think I can help more children and have more of an impact statewide through the legislature.” She said she has begun asking her campaign donors’ permission to transfer their contributions to her House campaign.
On her School Board campaign web site, Gonzalez called herself an educator and emphasized her credentials in education, including degrees in education-related subjects from the University of South Florida and former administrative positions she held in the Hillsborough and Pinellas school systems.
She now works for the vein care practice of her physician husband, Christopher Pittman.
Another Republican who lives in the district, South Tampa lawyer Michael Minardi, is also filed to run for the House. He announced plans to run in an East Hillsborough district, but has left open the possibility of switching to his home district.
Minardi, whose assistant said he was in a trial out of town last week, couldn’t be reached for comment on his political plans.
The new South Tampa district leans slightly Democratic — it voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump 51-47.