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District 3 could be Hillsborough’s tightest commission race in 2020

The two best-known candidates are Frank Reddick and Tom Scott. But civic activist Gwen Myers has had a successful fundraising start, and Sky White has support in the local Democratic Party’s progressive wing.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller is term-limited in his District 3 seat. JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times [Tampa Bay Times]
Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller is term-limited in his District 3 seat. JAMES BORCHUCK | Times [Tampa Bay Times]
Published Dec. 5, 2019

It’s early in the 2020 election cycle, but so far the most competitive Hillsborough County commissioner’s race may be District 3, where Commissioner Les Miller is term-limited.

The two best-known candidates are former City Council member Frank Reddick and former commissioner and council member Tom Scott. But civic activist and retired county official Gwen Myers has had a successful fundraising start, and Sky White, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018 for a countywide seat, has support in the progressive wing of the local Democratic Party.

No Republican has filed, and the Democratic primary will likely decide the race. The heavily minority district centers on East Tampa but extends north to the university area and south to Progress Village and Clair Mel.

Miller, who’s not taking sides, called it “a wide open race” with Myers, Reddick and Scott as the leaders.

In fundraising reports through October, Reddick led with $31,265, followed by Myers with $26,113, Scott with $22,593 and White with $8,542.

For Scott, the race would be something of a comeback.

He served 10 years in the seat through 2006, then on the Tampa City Council until 2011. He then ran unsuccessfully for Tampa mayor and then for a countywide commissioner’s seat in 2016.

Tom Scott, during his time on the Tampa City Council. [Times (2010)]

Scott suggested it’s a two-man race between himself and Reddick, who just finished eight years on the City Council.

“This district is not about the amount of money you raise, it’s about name recognition and who you touch,” Scott said.

Reddick said he’ll have advantages from being on recent ballots and because much of the district overlaps his council district, and thinks the race “will depend on who can turn out their supporters.”

Former City Council member Frank Reddick is running for the District 3 commission seat in 2020. [Times (2011)]

But Myers said her former job and work on various civic projects made her well-known in parts of the district outside the city.

“The community is saying they want new leadership,” she said. “We’re trying to get the mayor and the county to take care of issues that have been festering for more than 10 years, and nothing has happened on their watch.”

White was the only candidate who said there are significant issue differences among them.

A nurse with one son, she said she’s the only candidate young enough to understand the struggles of millennials, facing student debt and high housing costs, as she has done, and the resulting need for affordable housing.

Gruters promises help for local GOP

State Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters says he’s concerned about the effectiveness of the Hillsborough County GOP heading into the 2020 elections, but has “full confidence” in local party Chairman Jim Waurishuk.

Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters, speaks during the Tampa Bay Times Florida 2020 a candid conversation forum Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 in St. Petersburg. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

In a recent interview, Gruters said the state party will provide money and personnel necessary to make sure the local party improves its performance in 2020.

The local GOP has lagged in fundraising and membership and saw Democrats win big in 2018 local races. Donald Trump lost the county by 7 points in 2016.

“Hillsborough County is critical statewide,” Gruters said. “They need a little help. They need to be better organized and funded in 2020. The state party will supplement resources and manpower to make sure.”

“I have full confidence in Jim Waurishuk because the state party is going to come in and help him.”

But meanwhile, Waurishuk continues using inflammatory political rhetoric on social media that some local Republicans have called unacceptable, including recent Facebook posts that appear to call for Democrats involved in the impeachment investigation to be hanged for treason.

Jim Waurishuk, chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party. [Times (2016)]

One, since deleted, was a picture of nooses with the phrase “Treason still punishable by hanging.” Another with a picture of a baseball cap saying “Make Hanging Traitors Great Again” is still up; others have included a picture of the hanging of Lincoln assassination conspirators.

After alternative weekly Creative Loafing wrote about the posts, Waurishuk accused it on Facebook of slander, and Gruters commented, “I’m with you Jim Waurishuk. Keep up the good work!”

Waurishuk told the Times he’s “not advocating that (hanging) literally."

Teamsters back Cohn

Alan Cohn has been endorsed by the Teamsters union and Tampa-0based Local 79 in the Congressional District 15 race.

The union noted that Cohn has been a union member for much of his television news career. Local 79 has about 1,200 members, and former President Ken Wood is Cohn’s campaign chairman. Cohn has been endorsed by the Tampa Plumbers and Pipefitters union.

He faces Adam Hattersley in a Democratic primary for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Ross Spano of Dover.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.

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