Democratic Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller is jumping party lines to back Republican Sandy Murman against Pat Kemp for the countywide District 6 commissioner’s seat.
The move by Miller, the county’s most prominent Black elected official, culminates a history of bickering between him and Kemp. It also injects racial issues into the campaign and could suggest a problem for Kemp with Black voters, a key constituency for a countywide Democratic candidate.
“We need someone who’s going to be level-headed and look out for what’s best for the totality of the county,” said Miller in an interview. “Even though we’ve had our differences in the past, the best person for me is Sandy Murman.”
Miller suggested that Kemp has been unsympathetic to Black concerns — “In the Black community, she has not been there.”
Kemp vehemently denied that and questioned why Miller would endorse Murman after Murman’s 2017 vote against removing a Confederate statue from the front of the old county courthouse, a cause of Miller’s.
Murman later voted with a commission majority to move it, saying her concern was the cost. But she also voted to put controversial Sons of Confederate Veterans leader David McCallister on the county’s Diversity Advisory Council. The Confederate group defended the statue and formerly flew a large and widely criticized Confederate flag over I-4.
Murman has been endorsed by the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, a newspaper serving the local Black community; Kemp noted that she has been endorsed by the local Democratic Party Black Caucus.
But Kemp sustained more friction with the Black community when she was omitted from an NAACP online candidate forum — even though she said she’s an NAACP member. Because of a misunderstanding over email addresses, Kemp didn’t RSVP for the forum by the organization’s deadline.
In 2019, Kemp angered Miller by publicizing on social media large political contributions to Miller and the Republican commissioners from a developer seeking approval for a large, hotly disputed residential development near Wimauma.
“There’s a decorum you should follow” among commissioners, Miller said.
Miller and the Republicans won the vote to approve the development, arguing that the county could have been sued otherwise. But he said Kemp “wants to stop growth, period.”
Kemp denies that and says south county residents are increasingly outraged by overdevelopment and congestion.
Miller also said Kemp had opposed two Black candidates to head HART in 2017 and this year — “What’s the problem here Pat?” he asked, suggesting it could race. Kemp said she only advocated searches instead of immediate hires.
Tampa Bay Times elections coverage
Voter guide is coming soon: The Tampa Bay Times will publish a special election section Sunday, Oct. 18 with information on local races. You can also access our Know Your Candidates guide at tampabay.com/voterguide beginning Sunday, Oct. 11.
FELONY CONVICTION? Here are Florida’s rules for registering to vote.
POSTAL SERVICE CONCERNS: What’s going on with the U.S. Postal Service and should Florida be worried?
HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT VOTING IN FLORIDA? WE HAVE THE ANSWERS: We’ve compiled information on voter registration deadlines, rules for voting by mail and more.
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.