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Hillsborough Commissioner Gwen Myers reelected without opposition

Two races are headed to August primaries including one that will decide District 4 seat
Hillsborough County Commissioner Gwen Myers was re-elected to a four-year term for the District 3 seat when nobody opposed her by the end of the candidate qualifying period at noon Friday.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Gwen Myers was re-elected to a four-year term for the District 3 seat when nobody opposed her by the end of the candidate qualifying period at noon Friday. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Jun. 17|Updated Jun. 17

TAMPA — Two years ago, Democrat Gwen Myers defeated four primary opponents and then a Republican in the November general election to win a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission.

This year, the outcome was the same, but without the rigors of an extended campaign. Myers won reelection to a four-year term in the District 3 commission seat Friday when nobody opposed her by the end of the candidate qualifying period for the 2022 ballot.

Her GOP opponent from 2020, Maura Cruz Lanz, had pre-filed candidacy papers in October, but withdrew from the race five days later. Nobody stepped forward to replace her.

“It feels wonderful,” Myers said of her reelection. " I’m just thankful to the people of District 3 to allow me to run unopposed.”

Myers pointed to supporting the November referendum on a proposed 1% sales tax for transportation as one of her immediate goals, as well as continuing her work on gun violence, completing the Hillsborough County African-American Art Museum & Cultural Center in West Tampa and trying to bring better-paying jobs, housing, health care access and transportation options to District 3 based in the city of Tampa.

Myers reelection highlighted the close of the qualifying period that will see two Republican primaries on the Aug. 23 ballot, including one that will be open to all voters.

At noon Thursday, frequent write-in candidate Jose Vazquez qualified to run for the District 4 commission seat in east and south Hillsborough that is being vacated by Republican Stacy White because of term limits. Vazquez’ candidacy meant the Republican primary between Michael Joseph Owen and Noelle Licor would have been closed to Democrats and voters with no party affiliation.

“I’m not happy,” Licor said Friday morning about Vazquez’ candidacy.

But less than 24 hours after qualifying, Vazquez withdrew his write-in candidacy, allowing the District 4 race to be a winner-take-all, universal primary open to all registered voters. Registration for the district is broken down by 104,500 Republicans, 75,500 Democrats and 78,000 with no party or minor-party affiliation.

“My phone started ringing left and right (Thursday). People who questioned why I was running. I also got people who support me and people who thought it was a bad decision,” Vazquez said Friday after dropping his candidacy.

Vazquez, a registered Democrat, said Thursday his real interest was serving on Tampa City Council, but that he chose to run for the District 4 County Commission seat because no other Democrat had stepped forward.

He previously ran as a write-in candidate for the state Legislature and for Tampa mayor. He applied for vacancies on Tampa City Council in 2006, and in 2012 he received nearly 43 percent of the vote as the Democratic candidate for the then-state House District 58 seat.

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Related: Why Jose Vazquez had to campaign from a prison cell

In the District 7 countrywide seat, a pair of military veterans critical of the proposed transportation sales tax will face off in the other Republican primary. The winner will face incumbent Democrat Kimberly Overman in November.

Joshua Wostal, a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, and now owner and operator of a Tampa shipping and printing business, and Chase Harrison, who retired after 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and then served as a city of Tampa police officer, are both seeking to knock off Overman.

The remaining commission races head straight to the Nov. 8 ballot. District 1, which includes South Tampa and portions of northwest Hillsborough, features a rematch of the 2020 race, with incumbent Democrat Harry Cohen facing Republican Scott Levinson. In District 2, which includes the northern suburbs and the city of Temple Terrace, 20-year Commissioner Ken Hagan, a Republican, also faces a familiar opponent in Democrat Angela Birdsong. They previously tangled in 2018.

In the countywide District 5 race, incumbent Commissioner Mariella Smith, a Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Donna Cameron Cepada.

Because of redistricting, the District 2 and 4 commission seats are for two-year terms. The others are four-year seats. The commission salary is $105,239.

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