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Hillsborough Commissioner Pat Kemp fundraises off business group opposition

Of the three commissioners who have advocated for increased impact fees and slowing approval of new development, Kemp is the only one up for election in November.
County Commissioner Pat Kemp, a lightning rod in the controversy over growth management, is using a new business-friendly political committee as a fundraising opportunity. [Courtesy of Pat Kemp]
County Commissioner Pat Kemp, a lightning rod in the controversy over growth management, is using a new business-friendly political committee as a fundraising opportunity. [Courtesy of Pat Kemp]
Published Feb. 12

When a new political committee formed to support Hillsborough County candidates it considers business-friendly, raising a whopping $200,000 in one month, County Commissioner Pat Kemp initially said she didn’t know whom they were targeting.

But Kemp, a lightning rod in the controversy over growth management, now appears sure the group will come after her — and she’s using that possibility to raise money.

“Stand with County Commissioner Pat Kemp against reckless development,” said a fundraising mailer Kemp recently sent to supporters.

“A handful of wealthy developers have raised $200,000 to defeat me and other candidates who are opposed to suburban sprawl and corporate welfare,” it said.

Kemp posted similar material on her Facebook page.

The organization, Tampa Bay Business Coalition, hasn’t yet declared whom it will support or oppose, or made any political contributions.

“We intend to support candidates that are reasonable, thoughtful and collaborative,” said homebuilder Willy Nunn, chairman of the Coalition. “We need leaders that can find common ground and keep our economy moving forward.”

But of the three commissioners who have made waves advocating for increased impact fees and slowing approval of new developments — Kim Overman, Mariella Smith and Kemp, all Democrats — Kemp is the only one up for election in November.

New Republican in D1

Tony Morejon, former Hispanic and community outreach adviser for Hillsborough County, has filed in the South Tampa-based District 1 Hillsborough County commissioner’s race.

He’ll face a Republican primary with Scott Levinson in the seat being vacated by term-limited Sandy Murman. Harry Cohen and Jen McDonald are in a Democratic primary.

Tony Morejon, former Hispanic and community outreach adviser for Hillsborough County, has filed in the South Tampa-based District 1 Hillsborough County Commission race. [Courtesy of Tony Morejon]

Morejon, 61, of West Tampa, is the son of a Cuban immigrant family. He worked for the county from 1985-2018 and was 2018 Tampa Hispanic Heritage Inc. Man of the Year.

He’s never run for office but could draw votes in West Tampa and among Spanish speakers in the southern end of the district, which extends from South Shore to the county’s northern border.

Acknowledging Cohen as best-known in the race, Morejon said, “I enjoy being the underdog — being underestimated is not a big deal to me.”

Morejon said his job was helping people with language barriers and limited experience with bureaucracy to connect with government services, and he hopes to continue that.

“People having a hard time connecting with the government still call me,” he said. “I worked inside the system, so I understand the system.”

He said he believes the county needs “smart growth,” but “can’t stop growth … I don’t believe in shutting down business.” He said he intends to seek support from a new political committee formed to elect candidates it considers business-friendly, the Tampa Bay Business Coalition.

Mathew says he’s serious candidate

TK Mathew, a Republican who filed recently in the race for Hillsborough County tax collector but couldn’t immediately be reached or positively identified, says he’s a serious candidate for the office, and the reason for the mystery behind his identity is that he changed his name just before filing.

TK Mathew, a Republican who filed recently in the race for Hillsborough County tax collector, worked as a customer service representative in the tax collector’s office from 2007-11 under the name Kuruvilla T. Mathew. [Courtesy of TK Mathew]

Mathew, 42, worked as a customer service representative in the tax collector’s office from 2007-11 under the name Kuruvilla T. Mathew.

His family moved to the U.S. from India in 1985 and to Tampa in 1991. He graduated from King High School, attended Hillsborough Community College and Florida Metropolitan University, and worked in his family’s car sales and exporting business.

He moved to the tax collector’s office after the financial crash, then returned to India for two years. He said he now lives in Thonotosassa and has sold his automotive business.

Mathew said tax collector employees are underpaid and unhappy, and that there should be satellite offices at MacDill Air Force Base and James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, which he said can be done with existing resources.

“I’ve run a business,” he said. “I can make that place faster and more efficient.”

On Jan. 9, the same day he filed, his name was legally changed to TK Mathew from Kuruvilla Mathew Thykuttathil.

“It was difficult even for me to pronounce,” he said.

As a result, he didn’t show up in voter rolls or public record searches, and didn’t respond to phone or email messages after filing.

Dems hold presidential forum

The Hillsborough Democratic Party will hold a forum for presidential campaign representatives, open to the public, from 6-7:30 pm Saturday at the West Tampa Branch Library, 2312 W. Union St. Party Chairman Ione Townsend said the Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren campaigns have confirmed and others are expected.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.

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