Hillsborough County GOP picks first Black chairperson

Plus: endorsements in Tampa City Council races; a loss for Vern Buchanan; and more.
Dana Galen has been named the first Black Hillsborough GOP chairperson.
Dana Galen has been named the first Black Hillsborough GOP chairperson. [ courtesy Dana Galen ]
Published Jan. 15

The Hillsborough County Republican Party now has its first Black chairperson: Dana Galen, a retired musician and paralegal from Valencia Lakes in Wimauma, was elected to replace the outgoing Jim Waurishuk.

Galen said she’s been a conservative and Republican since the 1990s, and adheres to the belief that welfare programs and intense focus on racial discrimination by the left undercut self-reliance rather than alleviating poverty or social ills in the Black community. She will be one of two Black county party chairpersons in the state.

Galen, 66, was born and raised in St. Louis, the daughter of two musicians, in a family that started off in public housing but eventually worked their way to the suburbs, she said.

Her father was a jazz bassist with a day job in a shoe factory and her mother was a singer who turned stay-at-home mom to Galen and her sisters. Jazz great trumpeter Miles Davis was a family friend, she said.

After college, she moved to Los Angeles as a touring singer and songwriter. Later, she said, “I got tired of being on the road” and became a paralegal.

Galen moved to Florida in 2018 for “retirement and a need to be with like-minded people,” becoming politically active and heading a Republican club she said now has nearly 350 members.

She said she became a conservative as soon as she became “politically aware” in the 1990s because she saw “streets getting more unsafe, drugs running rampant and no one doing anything about it.”

“People should be given the ability and encouragement to work hard and be independent, not to be dependent,” she said. “I saw people who would prefer to take welfare than take jobs … I got tired of being told that Black people are always victims.”

Among Florida’s 67 counties, Michael Barnett of Palm Beach County, who was recently appointed a county commissioner by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is the other Black county chairperson, said a state GOP spokeswoman.

Unions back Clendenin, Hurtak

The West Central Florida Labor Council, an influential union umbrella organization, has endorsed Tampa City Council member Lynn Hurtak against challenger Janet Cruz, and is backing challenger Alan Clendenin against Joe Citro.

Clendenin is the only non-incumbent the labor council endorsed, and it’s backing Hurtak despite Cruz’s record of pro-labor votes as a state legislator.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Police Benevolent Association has endorsed Cruz, who’s considered an ally of mayor and former police Chief Jane Castor.

The labor council often backs incumbent council members — one of its constituent unions, the Amalgamated Transit Union, represents city employees.

Council spokeswoman Cheryl Schroeder said the members chose Clendenin partly because of his history as a former national official of the air traffic controllers union, and because Citro “has done little to help us or hurt us.”

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She also said members believe Clendenin has a better chance than in 2019, when he narrowly failed to make the runoff against Citro.

She called the council’s decision to back Hurtak “a very hard decision” because Cruz “has treated us so well in the Legislature.” But she said Hurtak was convincing in an interview and, “We found no reason not to endorse the incumbent.”

Buchanan loses race to be House Ways and Means chairperson

In the aftermath of the speakership battle among congressional Republicans, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, lost a race for chairperson of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, a post that could have added power and influence to the state congressional delegation.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. [ U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan ]

Despite being the committee’s most senior Republican, Buchanan lost to Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., leaving Florida’s 28-member House delegation, including 20 Republicans, with no full committee chairperson.

Smith calls himself a “firebrand” in contrast to Buchanan’s emphasis on his business background.

In a statement, Buchanan congratulated Smith but said, “This is a big loss for Florida which hasn’t had a committee chairman in five years despite being the fastest growing state with the second largest Republican delegation in the House. Florida deserves a seat at the leadership table.”

The speakership battle featured controversial roles for at least three Florida House Republicans — Byron Donalds of Naples, Matt Gaetz of Pensacola and Anna Paulina Luna of St. Petersburg — who all opposed Kevin McCarthy for speaker during at least some of the votes.

Poll raises question of Carlson-Murman matchup

A text-message poll that focuses partly on former Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman as a possible Tampa City Council candidate has Tampa political insiders buzzing about whether she will challenge council incumbent Bill Carlson.

The poll included numerous questions about Mayor Jane Castor’s job performance, plus “message-testing” questions designed to discover the best attacks and favorable arguments about her candidacy.

But it also included head-to-head matchup questions on a Carlson-Murman council race and a Carlson-Castor race for mayor.

Carlson has been the sharpest critic of Castor on the council, and with Castor having no heavyweight opponent, some view the City Council races as a referendum on her administration.

But as of late last week, Carlson was the only candidate filed in his South Tampa-based District 4.

Murman didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

Former Mayor Bob Buckhorn, one of Castor’s most influential allies, denied having had anything to do with the poll. He acknowledged he has encouraged potential candidates to run against Carlson, although he wouldn’t name them.

Qualifying is Jan. 16-20.