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County political chief seats in play on both sides of bay

Hillsborough County Republican Party Chairman Jim Waurishuk faces two challengers for his seat.
Jim Waurishuk, chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party. [Times (2016)]
Jim Waurishuk, chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party. [Times (2016)]
Published Nov. 26, 2022

Two candidates challenge for Hillsborough GOP chair

At least two candidates are campaigning to replace embattled Hillsborough County Republican Party Chairman Jim Waurishuk.

Meanwhile, both the Pinellas Republican and Democratic parties will elect new chairpersons in December, but Hillsborough Democratic insiders say they see no signs of a challenge to party chief Ione Townsend.

Pinellas Republican Party vice chairman Adam Ross, who’s executive director in the office of 6th Circuit State Attorney Bruce Bartlett, is running to replace the outgoing chairman, Todd Jennings.

Ross, a veteran prosecutor, has served eight years in the Pinellas-Pasco 6th circuit.

Cathi Chamberlain has announced her candidacy, and Ross said another party activist, Michael Surette, is running. Neither could be reached for comment.

Ross said Jennings is stepping down after serving four years in the post, a tradition for Pinellas GOP chairs.

Lucinda Johnston, Pinellas Democratic chairwoman, said she is stepping down “to go into the grandparent business.” She said she’s not aware of any candidates for the office and expects nominations from the floor in the election.

Candidates for Hillsborough GOP chair include Bob Emerson of Apollo Beach, a veteran of about a decade of activity in the local GOP, and Dana Galen, a who has held two party committee chairmanships.

Waurishuk didn’t respond to inquiries as to whether he will seek re-election, but both challengers said they intend to run regardless.

Emerson is president of the South Shore Republican club and former party treasurer; Galen, of Wimauma, is chair of the party’s messaging and minority outreach committees.

Waurishuk has been in conflict with state party Chairman Joe Gruters over admission of scores of new precinct representatives to the local party. It’s expected many of the new members would vote against reelecting Waurishuk.

Tampa City Council races have question marks

As candidates line up for the March 7 Tampa City Council elections, some tough contests are looming, along with some big question marks.

Maybe the biggest is the West Tampa-based District 6, where Hoyt Prindle III has filed to run with backing from Democratic County Commissioner Pat Kemp.

That’s the same district where veteran council member Charlie Miranda, now term-limited in a citywide seat, would be expected to run if he chooses to seek another term, his ninth since 1974.

As is his long-standing practice, Miranda won’t disclose his political plans until after the holidays.

Complicating the picture is former council member and mayoral candidate Mike Suarez, who lives in District 6 and doesn’t rule out seeking to return to the Council. He said he doesn’t yet know what seat he would run for if he ran; his relationship with Miranda has been contentious in the past but is now “cordial,” Suarez said.

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Meanwhile, yet another candidate, Chase Harrison, has entered the crowded field challenging incumbent Joseph Citro in the citywide District 1 seat. Already running are Alan Clendenin and Sonja Brookins, who filed in April but hasn’t yet raised any campaign money.

In New Tampa-based District 7, incumbent Luis Viera has raised by far the most money of any candidate, $48,525, since filing Aug. 5, and remains unopposed.

Former state Sen. Janet Cruz, who surprised political insiders immediately after losing her Senate seat Nov. 8 by announcing she’ll challenge incumbent Lynn Hurtak in the citywide District 3 seat, has announced an endorsement from the influential Tampa Police Benevolent Association.

No candidate has filed in South Tampa-based District 4, despite speculation that allies of Mayor Jane Castor would encourage a challenger to incumbent Bill Carlson, a vociferous Castor critic. Carlson says he intends to run but is “in no hurry to file.”

Meanwhile, Castor hasn’t yet filed for reelection, but associates say she will soon. She told the Tampa Bay Times in January that she was running.

Hillsborough NAACP election raises turmoil

Yvette Lewis, a persistent critic of Mayor Jane Castor, has been reelected president of the Hillsborough County NAACP after an election that caused controversy and allegations of vote suppression.

Lewis was opposed by Tarance D. Le’Noir, one of a group of dissident candidates that includes long-time civic and Republican political activist Joe Robinson.

Robinson sought to run for 2nd vice president but was suspended from membership, along with East Tampa political activist Michelle Patty. Both have been sharply critical of the chapter’s leadership; national NAACP leaders suspended them for the criticism, which the organization considered “inimical to the best interests of … the association.”

According to various accounts, police were called the night of the election Nov. 15 to come to the site where the online election was being originated after Robinson and others sought, but were denied, entry into the building.

Lewis said “from my understanding,” the opposition to her was encouraged by allies of Castor — “I don’t know for sure and I don’t have any proof,” she added.

“That’s false,” replied Castor spokesman Adam Smith. “Jane Castor was not involved in an NAACP election.”

But Robinson said scores or hundreds of members were unable to vote because of flawed procedures for providing ballots for the election, and said the situation is linked to problems with leadership of the national NAACP.

“The mayor had nothing to do with it,” he said, accusing Lewis’s administration of various kinds of misconduct.

Lewis won 190 to 68, and Daryl Hych and Karl Davis won for 1st and 2nd vice president, unopposed.

Hart elected Black Caucus chair

State Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, has been elected 2022-24 chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, giving the city two Black women in legislative leadership positions.

Rep. Fentrice Driskell was previously chosen House minority leader.

The Black Caucus will consist of 29 Black senators and House members, mostly Democrats.

Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, whose district includes parts of Tampa, will be vice-chair.