Monday, October 22, 2018
Politics

Carlton: Only in America: Convicted Kotvas wants to be your commissioner — again.

You shake your head.

You think: Seriously?

Then you marvel a little at the human spirit, or maybe just the utter lack of shame.

Joe Kotvas ó one of the Hillsborough County commissioners famously led from the courthouse in handcuffs in 1983 in a bribery scandal ó would now like to finish his term. And heíd like your vote to do it.

Friday morning, white-haired, bespectacled and dressed in a neat charcoal suit with a dapper blue pocket square, Kotvas rode the elevator to the 16th floor of County Center to officially declare himself a candidate in the crowded countywide District 5 county commission race.

Though he has been both a Democrat and Republican, heís running this time with no party affiliation (and thankyouthankyouthankyou you can hear party leaders saying.)

Kotvas is 75, polite, earnest ó and ready for my obvious question about what voters are supposed to make of his conviction and his five years in federal prison in that shocker of a scandal. Can there really be a comeback from headlines about three elected officials selling votes for $75,000 for a favorable rezoning of a huge development called the Galleria?

Kotvas says he respects juries but juries can be misled. "Prosecutorial misconduct," he says.

"Read my book," he says. Yes, he wrote a book. Itís called Found Guilty, But...

"Yes, Iím guilty," he told the Times last year. "But Iím not guilty of the charges. Iím guilty of not testifying on my own behalf."

Oh, the tales they tell of those times: Of fellow commissioners concerned about how certain votes seemed to go certain ways and Kotvas explaining to someone that "you might think we vote strangely, but we go by the Farmerís Almanac." Of how one commissioner would pull on his ear or, in the alternative, rub his nose to indicate which way a vote should go.

The good news is that the scandal that rocked peopleís confidence in government also changed government itself.

It got us a new county charter and brought to the forefront squeaky-clean politicians like the late Jan Platt. (Later commissioners seemed intent on undoing a lot of that good, voting enthusiastically for sprawl and against basic dignities for certain citizens, but that is a history lesson for another day.)

Kotvas ó a former cop and city councilman who once very nearly got elected mayor ó is not making his first post-prison bid for redemption, having doggedly and unsuccessfully run for offices including the commission in 1996 and more recently the Hillsborough County school board.

"Iíve had a life of service, and of ups and downs," he says now. "I think people are ready for a candidate like me."

Apparently, someone wished us interesting times, because we are definitely living in them. Once upon a time there was a line you could not cross. Once, a person could be rendered unelectable.

Except that line keeps moving, and we have proof pretty much no one is unelectable.

Reality check here: A Kotvas comeback seems unlikely, particularly given some heavy-hitters already in that race. But it isnít impossible.

This is America, after all, where stranger things have happened.

Comments
Trump says US will pull out of intermediate range nuke pact

Trump says US will pull out of intermediate range nuke pact

ELKO, Nevada — President Donald Trump says he will pull United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.Trump says Moscow has violated the agreement, but provided no details.The 1987 pact helps protect the security ...
Published: 10/20/18
Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

You wouldn't skip a trip to the gas pump, would you?Then don't miss the chance to cast your general election ballot, either, when Hillsborough County opens its many early voting sites Monday morning for a two-week engagement.If you do your homework a...
Published: 10/19/18
Hernando commissioners face Democratic challengers, questions about contributions

Hernando commissioners face Democratic challengers, questions about contributions

Early voting begins Oct. 24.
Published: 10/19/18
Three weeks before election, tax foes organize to fight transportation measure

Three weeks before election, tax foes organize to fight transportation measure

TAMPA ó No Tax for Tracks is putting the band back together.The group that campaigned against the failed 2010 transit referendum in Hillsborough has regrouped to fight a proposed penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike for road, bus and transit projects. ...
Published: 10/19/18
Carlton: How a shortage of candor could tilt a commission race (Bribery scandal? What bribery scandal?)

Carlton: How a shortage of candor could tilt a commission race (Bribery scandal? What bribery scandal?)

In one of the most interesting local races around, first-time candidate Mariella Smith, a Democrat, looks like sheís got a longtime politician on the ropes.But forget, for a minute, that Smithís opponent is veteran Republican Hillsborough County Comm...
Published: 10/19/18
Some of these Florida amendments arenít worth your time

Some of these Florida amendments arenít worth your time

For such a sacred document, we seem to give little thought to scribbling on, erasing and haphazardly expanding the Florida Constitution.Since a revised version was established in 1968, Florida voters have been asked to consider more than 175 differen...
Published: 10/18/18
Florida House District 67 candidates agree education is a priority, but disagree on what to do about it

Florida House District 67 candidates agree education is a priority, but disagree on what to do about it

Democrat Dawn Douglas says charter schools pull money from public education, while incumbent Republican Chris Latvala backed bill that sent construction money to charters.
Published: 10/18/18
In House 36, it's youthful incumbent vs. life-experienced activist

In House 36, it's youthful incumbent vs. life-experienced activist

Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, faces her first re-election test since her upset win two years ago.
Published: 10/18/18
Nevadaís famous pimp expected to win election despite death

Nevadaís famous pimp expected to win election despite death

LAS VEGAS ó Nevadaís most famous pimp tried to bring the stateís legal brothel industry into the mainstream by mingling with celebrities, showcasing his business on HBO and staging outlandish publicity stunts.Dennis Hofís fame made him an attention-g...
Published: 10/17/18
Daniel Ruth: For Hillsborough voters, transportation tax is leap of faith they can ponder while stuck in trafffic

Daniel Ruth: For Hillsborough voters, transportation tax is leap of faith they can ponder while stuck in trafffic

Perhaps one way to approach the ongoing community-wide debate over imposing a one-cent sales tax to pay for a variety of transportation needs is to think of all this dickering as a sort of family Thanksgiving dinner that has suddenly turned into a Th...
Published: 10/17/18