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In Hillsborough clerk’s race, Alex Sink backs Kevin Beckner

In a news release, Sink praised Beckner’s qualifications as a former county commissioner and financial planner.

Prominent Democrat Alex Sink is backing Kevin Beckner in the Democratic clerk of court primary against Doug Bakke, the candidate favored by another of the county’s most prominent Democratic women, outgoing Clerk Pat Frank.

The situation carries echoes of the divisive 2016 primary for clerk between Frank and Beckner.

In a news release, Sink praised Beckner’s qualifications as a former county commissioner and financial planner, saying, “I have known Kevin Beckner for years and watched him serve with integrity and efficiency.”

Prominent Democrat Alex Sink is backing Kevin Beckner in the Democratic clerk of court primary against Doug Bakke. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]

But Sink also said in an interview that Beckner has been a staunch supporter of her own past races. A former state chief financial officer, she has also run for governor and Congress.

She further said Beckner could have a political future that would help build the state Democratic Party, a long-time goal of Sink’s.

“We know he’s ambitious, and I want to see him do a good credible job as clerk and after that we’ll see where it goes,” she said. “This could potentially set him up to run for CFO.”

Bakke, Frank’s chief deputy and long-time employee of the office, hasn’t previously been involved in politics.

Frank, meanwhile, commented tersely that she was surprised Sink didn’t seek her advice before endorsing. “We’ll be on opposite sides on this one,” she added.

Doug Bakke, Pat Frank’s chief deputy and a long-time employee of the clerk's office, is favored by Frank in the Democratic primary against Kevin Beckner. [ Courtesy of Doug Bakke ]

Beckner has said he didn’t want to run against Frank in 2016, but ended up doing so because of a misunderstanding over whether she intended to seek a fourth term. Each side blamed the other and the primary turned negative, creating divisions among local Democrats; Frank backers accused Beckner of opportunism and he made comments that seemed to suggest she was too old to seek another term. She’s about to turn 90.

Sink said she agrees Beckner didn’t handle the race well and has told him so — “I believe he regrets it.”

Beckner clearly hopes to get past the rancor. At his campaign kickoff, he opened his speech with praise for Frank’s long political career. “If you see her, tell her thank you for her service … a job well done,” he said.

Beckner raised $34,341 in his first month as a candidate, including $10,000 of his own money. Bakke, who filed Nov. 1, hasn’t yet filed a fundraising report.

District 1 field growing

The race for the District 1 county commission seat shows signs of getting crowded despite expectations that former Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen will be the front-runner.

Former Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen is running for the Hillsborough County Commission.

Scott Levinson, a Republican, head of the Tampa Bay Youth Football League and first-time candidate for office, filed last week.

Insiders still expect Republican Todd Marks to file; and Cohen faces a Democratic primary challenge from Jen McDonald.

Cohen has announced raising $40,716 in his first month as a candidate. McDonald, who filed last year but didn’t start fundraising in earnest until October, raised $6,429 for the month and has about $10,000 in cash.

Levinson, 54, is a Tampa native with a long history in youth sports who worked for his family’s meat processing and distribution business until taking over as executive director of the TBYFL in 2016.

He said he’s not ready yet to present stances on issues, but believes local government needs more awareness and advocacy for the needs of children and youth.

“I’ve spent a lot of my adult life fighting for children and their families, dealing with the bureaucracy,” he said.

Millan raises $52k

Nancy Millan raised $52,100 in her first month running for Hillsborough County tax collector and has a promise of more fundraising help from outgoing Tax Collector Doug Belden.

Nancy Millan, director of community relations in Doug Belden’s office, has announced her candidacy for tax collector. [ Courtesy of Nancy Millan ]

Meanwhile, Belden, who filed for re-election but dropped out of the race last month for health reasons, said he has refunded to donors about 98 percent of the $213,234 he raised for his campaign.

Belden said a thank-you letter he sent with the refunds and didn’t mention Millan, but that he’ll urge supporters to contribute to her.

Former school board member April Griffin filed Nov. 4, facing Millan in a primary, and hasn’t yet filed a first fundraising report.

Kushmer files

Danny Kushmer has filed to run for the open state House seat from Brandon-based District 59.

Kushmer, an agricultural technology consultant, ran in the 2018 primary for the U.S. House seat won by Ross Spano.

He joins Republicans Michael Owen and Melissa Haskins and Democrats Andrew Learned and Mark Oliver in the race. Rep. Adam Hattersley is vacating the seat.

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