TAMPA — Republican Jim Norman never lost a race during his two-decade political career — until now.
Norman, who left the state Senate in 2012 amid controversy, came up short in his attempt at a comeback, losing his Republican primary for Hillsborough County's District 6 commission seat Tuesday to Tampa businessman Tim Schock. With all precincts reported, Schock led Norman 62 percent to 38 percent.
"I think people were really yearning for a new voice, new perspective, a different kind of experience to help solve some of the problems," Schock said.
Schock, 43, will face Tampa lawyer Pat Kemp, 59, in the November general election. She coasted to a decisive victory in a four-way Democratic primary, with 45 percent of the vote.
Kemp, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor when she was a commissioner, was the favorite to win the nomination in early polls. She ran a campaign hyper-focused on solving transportation problems even as she criticized a failed county proposal for a half-cent sales tax surcharge to pay for road work. Other Democrats embraced it, but Kemp said it wasn't bold enough.
She staved off a strong campaign from first-time candidate Brian Willis, a local lawyer and transit activist who outraised and outspent Kemp, and former Commissioner Tom Scott, a well-known Tampa pastor. Scott came in second and Willis third. Former Plant City Mayor John Dicks was a distant fourth.
"I've been out there for 30 years, and it's been appreciated and people believe in what I'm saying," Kemp said. "I think people are ready for a transit future here in Hillsborough County."
The open countywide seat being vacated by Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who had reached his term limit, drew a deep field of both seasoned candidates and rising newcomers.
No one entered the race quite like Norman, 62. He announced his campaign by promoting a lie detector test that he said cleared him of past ethics investigations into an Arkansas vacation home. He came out of the gates with a $100,000 fundraising haul and set out to persuade Republican voters to send him back to the commission where he started in politics in 1992.
But Schock continued to make Norman's past a focal point. Along the way, Schock picked up straw poll victories from the county GOP and several business groups.
"It has been an honor to serve the people of Hillsborough County," Norman said. "My heart goes out to the men and women serving in our military and our police and firefighters."
The race now shifts to the general election, where Kemp will try to keep the seat in Democratic control. If Schock wins, Republicans will hold a 6-1 supermajority on the commission for the first time since 2007.
Kemp and Schock ran for the same commission seat in 2014. In the Republican primary, Schock lost to Al Higginbotham, who then narrowly defeated Kemp in the general election.
Contact Steve Contorno at email@example.com. Follow @scontorno.