TAMPA — One day after Hillsborough’s Civil Service Board closed its doors for good, the agency’s executive director has officially entered the 2020 race for Clerk of the Circuit Court.
Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner filed with the Supervisor of Elections office just before noon Tuesday. It’s his second bid for the job, which has been held since 2004 by Pat Frank, an iconic figure in local politics who, at age 89, plans to retire at the end of her fourth term in office.
Beckner, 48, is considered by many to be a rising star among local Democrats. But he lost some support after running an aggressive, often vitriolic campaign to unseat Frank, a fellow Democrat, in 2016. Frank ultimately won with 59 percent of the primary vote. Beckner refused to endorse her against a Republican challenger, angering some party leaders and elected officials.
In 2017, Beckner beat out more than 200 applicants to become the executive director of Hillsborough County’s Civil Service Board. The human resources and arbitration agency was already stripped of most of its duties by the time Beckner took the helm. But when his efforts to reinvent the agency resulted in higher spending, the county’s constitutional officers — including rival Frank — convinced state lawmakers to abolish the agency altogether.
Civil Service records show that in 2018, the first full fiscal year under Beckner’s leadership, the agency’s annual expenditures increased by nearly $350,000 — from $1,082,808 to $1,430,214. That included commission-approved spending to move the agency within the County Center building.
And when the agency closed its doors for good Sept. 30, the end of the 2019 fiscal year, officials estimated its annual expenditures had increased again by nearly $300,000 – totaling an estimated $1,726,000.
Beckner won’t face an incumbent this time around, and so far no Democratic challengers have jumped into the race.
Frank had championed Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Les Miller as her chosen successor, but despite winning support from prominent Democrats and Republicans, Miller decided to drop out of the race due to health issues.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, a Republican, filed for the clerk’s race last June and has already amassed nearly $195,000 in campaign contributions. Other rumored candidates include longtime Hillsborough County School Board member Cindy Stuart and former Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen, both Democrats.
Cohen joined Frank as general counsel after a failed campaign for mayor of Tampa. He is widely expected to run for a county commissioner’s seat in 2020, but has yet to file.