It’s too early for more than speculation, but some political insiders are starting to think Kevin Beckner could go virtually unopposed in the Hillsborough clerk of court race.
“It doesn’t appear that anyone wants to run against Kevin at this time,” said county Commissioner Les Miller, a supporter of Beckner’s primary opponent Doug Bakke, who has left the race, leaving Beckner with no announced opposition.
“If someone is going to, they need to get moving in the next two to four weeks,” he said.
Veteran local Republican political consultant April Schiff said it’s “hard to imagine” that Beckner won’t have significant opposition.
“There’s a faction of Democrats I can’t imagine would let that happen, and certainly the Republicans shouldn’t,” Schiff said.
But, she added, “I haven’t seen anybody stepping up to the plate.”
Republican county Commissioner Stacy White said he’s pessimistic about a significant GOP challenge — “I don’t see the Republicans mounting much of a challenge on anything countywide at this point.”
Beckner alienated some fellow Democrats when he unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Clerk Pat Frank in a 2016 primary campaign that turned negative. Frank is now retiring, and Beckner is working to mend those fences, both by connecting with her South Tampa support base and publicly praising her career.
Republican county Commissioner Sandy Murman is filed for the race but considered unlikely to run.
Business coalition raises $200,000
A political committee aimed at combating local candidates that its leaders consider business-unfriendly is starting with a whopping $200,000, mostly from the development industry, after a month of fundraising.
The group, the Tampa Bay Business Coalition, opposes growth limits and increased impact fees pushed by the new Democratic majority on the board of commissioners. Its first target could be Commissioner Pat Kemp, an advocate for limits on sprawl, who’s up for re-election.
The Coalition got contributions including $50,000 each from Ripa & Associates construction firm and Homes by WestBay, a homebuilding firm headed by Coalition chairman Willy Nunn; $35,000 from a family trust of the late construction magnate Ralph Hughes; $25,000 from The Kearney Companies construction firm; and $10,000 from Lennar Homes.
Kemp currently has no declared opponent but could face a challenge from Murman.
“I don’t know who they’re targeting,” Kemp said, but, added, “I know they’re very upset that I’ve taken a strong stance to make growth pay for itself.”
Townsend to challenge McClure
C.L. Townsend, husband of Hillsborough County Democratic Party Chairman Ione Townsend, has announced he’ll run for the Plant City-based state House seat held by Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure of Dover.
Townsend, 77, is a first-time candidate but a familiar face to Democrats after involvement in local campaigns and party work.
“We need to change the conversation in Tallahassee to issues that are more germane to the broad population than special interests … health care, education, climate,” Townsend said.
The district leans significantly Republican and has voted more Republican than the state as a whole in the last two elections, according to data from MCI Maps. McClure, who won his seat in a 2017 special election, won re-election by nine points over a comparatively unknown Democrat, Phil Hornback, in 2018.
But Townsend said Republican winning margins have been narrowing.
The filing brings local Democrats close to having a candidate in every local ballot slot, a coup that Ione Townsend said shows local party enthusiasm. It also forces Republicans to use resources defending seats they would otherwise win easily.
But both Townsends said his candidacy wasn’t her idea — she has urged him to run for office in the past but was surprised he decided to do it this year, they said.
It also poses a potential conflict of interest because the local party will make substantial contributions to Hillsborough candidates. Ione Townsend said she’ll recuse herself from decisions on those contributions, asking Vice Chairman Vanessa Lester to step in.
Proctor gets a big win
Mark Proctor, well-known local Republican political consultant who specializes in judicial races, has scored what may be his biggest win, and it had nothing to do with a ballot box.
Proctor just completed a year-long battle against pancreatic cancer, usually fatal, which he kept mostly secret. It culminated in surgery Dec. 15, and on Jan. 15, doctors declared him cancer-free.
“That’s my new birthday,” he said this week. “It’s as if God had a gift for me.”
Contact William March at firstname.lastname@example.org.