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March: retired Mosaic executive Christine Smith mulls run for Hillsborough County Commission

Published Dec. 19, 2015

Another Republican candidate appears likely to enter the GOP primary for the Hillsborough County Commission's countywide District 6 seat: Christine Smith of Lithia, who recently retired after a lengthy career as community relations manager for Mosaic, the phosphate mining company.

Smith, 65, said she's still doing "due diligence" but expects to file in January.

She's new to politics, but said, "I've always had an interest in politics and governmental affairs. Now that I've retired it's time to give back to this community."

She wouldn't get specific about goals or issues, saying she has no criticism of the current board and wants to "help bring consensus to some of the larger issues we face going forward and showing leadership qualities to make good decisions for the future."

Asked about challenging longtime Hillsborough politician Jim Norman, a well-known name and energetic campaigner with a huge financial war chest, she said, "My focus is on my race. What Jim does is his business."

Smith is married and has two grown children. She's working with Brock Mikosky of Momentum Strategy Group.

Norman chose not to run for re-election to his state Senate seat in 2012 following negative publicity over ethics accusations. But in September he filed to run for District 6.

Tom Lee for County Commission?

The talk of Tallahassee as the trial over Senate districts got under way was the possibility that leadership heavyweights Tom Lee of Brandon and Bill Galvano of Bradenton could end up in the same district.

If they did, there's speculation that Lee, who has family and business reasons to stay in town and doesn't appear to have a chance at a second tenure as Senate president, could look to the District 6 commission seat himself.

What about the talk of a county commission race? "They're not getting that from me," Lee said. "It's probably coming from fundraisers" arm-twisting donors who might not want to contribute to a candidate or committee if a major primary were upcoming.

But, he acknowledged, "I've kind of done it all up there already."

While Smith mulls a run for District 6, there are three Republicans in the race: Norman, the heavyweight, Tim Schock, who ran for commissioner unsuccessfully in 2014, and political novice Thomas Avino.

The seat is being vacated by Commissioner Kevin Beckner, the Democrat who has reached his term limit. Former Hillsborough County Democratic Party chairwoman Pat Kemp, former Hillsborough County Commissioner and Tampa City Councilman Tom Scott and transit activist Brian Willis are all vying for the Democratic nomination.

Rashid bashes anti-Islam rhetoric

A few local Republicans, including U.S. Rep. David Jolly and state Rep. Jamie Grant, have blasted Donald Trump in harsh language over his anti-Muslim rhetoric. Now East Hillsborough conservative political activist Sam Rashid, known for his fiery Facebook chatter, has joined them.

Rashid, whose industrial saw company Holtec employs 62 people, is himself an immigrant from a Muslim family that left Pakistan to come to the West. He became a Christian under the influence of the woman who became his wife.

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"Trump shows us that his bigotry 'trumps' the American Dream and its founding Document," he wrote.

He said condemning all Muslims because of the perverse actions of radicals is "akin to condemning billions of Christians because Hitler considered what he was doing as the ultimate Christian act."

Rashid is a Rubio backer in the GOP primary, but said his numerous Muslim friends are leaning toward supporting Hillary Clinton because of Trump's rhetoric.

Fundraising notes

Rena Frazier is posting big numbers in the House District 59 Democratic primary — $7,525 in November for a four-month total of $46,651. Her primary opponent, Golnaz Sahebzamani, pulled in $1,850, for a five-month total of $20,095. Republican incumbent Ross Spano kicked his fundraising up a notch in November, pulling in $18,000 for full-year total of $55,619.

Norman got a boost from Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, sons of the late George Steinbrenner, in the District 6 county commission race. Four companies controlled by the Steinbrenners gave Norman $1,000 each, as did political committees associated with state Rep. Chris Latvala and former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff. Norman pulled in $7,450 for an intimidating total so far of $107,575.

Mike Reedy's fundraising remained slow in November in the House District 63 Democratic primary, just $1,285, for an 11-month total of $16,347.

• Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, is outstripping Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, in the Senate District 19 primary. Rouson raised $2,500 in November for a $34,100 total; Reed drew $550 for a $12,800 total.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.

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