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Pro-development interests will seek to assert influence in Hillsborough’s 2020 elections

New growth restrictions and increased impact fees by the county commission have led insiders to expect a political backlash. Still, industry opposition to the measures may not be uniform.

Some Hillsborough County political insiders expect a backlash by the powerful real estate development industry in the 2020 elections because of new growth restrictions and increased impact fees imposed by the board of county commissioners.

The board imposed large but phased-in increases this week on park and mobility fees, despite industry arguments that a collapsing economy is the wrong time for those moves.

But a series of interviews with representatives of industry trade groups yielded mixed messages about possible political reactions.

There are already clear signs that some, including home builders, will seek to assert influence in county commission races in 2020.

A new PAC devoted to electing candidates it considers business-friendly formed last fall. Funded heavily by builders, it has raised $272,500.

In advance of this week’s vote, the Tampa Bay Builders Association began a social media initiative tagging five commissioners, including the three perceived as most strongly favoring new fees or restrictions — Democrats Pat Kemp, Kimberly Overman and Mariella Smith. The initiative is being guided by public relations consultant Beth Leytham.

But industry opposition may not be uniform.

The Greater Tampa Association of Realtors, for example, supported a March increase in school impact fees, which drew little public opposition from the industry. Association President Darlene Davenport didn’t respond to inquiries about a potential political response to the more recent increases.

Developers, like builders, appear more strongly opposed. Several have contributed to the new PAC, the Tampa Bay Business Coalition.

So has Kamala Corbett, a land use lawyer who’s on the board of both the Builders Association and NAIOP, a developer’s trade group.

Asked whether she expects a political reaction from the industry, she said only, “We’re very concerned about the direction of the board of commissioners. If you say we’re not going to build any more in Hillsborough County until the roads are fixed, then we’re not going to build for a very long time.”

Todd Josko, a NAIOP lobbyist, said the group is “very involved, very political — we do support candidates and give money to campaigns.”

But, he added, “At this point I don’t think we anticipate doing anything differently than what we’ve done in past years.”

Phasing in the fee increases, as the commissioners voted Wednesday to do, would decrease opposition from the industry, he and others said.

Kemp, the only commissioner running for re-election who voted for the fees, has said she expects to be a target of industry opposition and is using that in her own fundraising pitches.

But the industry may also pick candidates it favors in the two district races on the ballot, where Democrats appear to be frontrunners in both. So far, development industry contributions in those races appear to be favoring Harry Cohen in District 1 and Tom Scott in District 3.

Mathew boosts campaign

Like many candidates cancelling campaign events, Republican tax collector candidate TK Mathew had to postpone his kickoff fundraiser planned for April 10, but that didn’t stop him from having a good fundraising month.

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 ]

On April 30, the last day of the campaign finance reporting period, Mathew dropped $30,000 of his own money into his campaign account.

That’s one of just three cash contributions Mathew’s campaign has received since he filed Jan. 9, along with another $500 from himself and $1,000 from a Lakeland physician, for a total of $31,500.

GOP candidate in D3

The newly filed Republican candidate in the District 3 Hillsborough County commissioner’s race is Maura Cruz Lanz, 64, an Ybor City native and grandmother living in Wellswood, who runs a homebuilding business with her husband Manuel Lanz.

Lanz, a first-time candidate, said via email that she has little political experience but was urged to run by her family and friends, and did so because, “I didn’t like the direction our county was going in” and “I was tired of complaining.”

The race will determine the replacement for retiring Commissioner Les Miller.

But any Republican will face a daunting task in heavily minority District 3, which has 56 percent Democrat and 16 percent Republican voter registration.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com

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