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  1. Florida Politics

Les Miller to run for Hillsborough court clerk with current Clerk Pat Frank's endorsement

Les Miller will run for clerk of circuit court with the endorsement of current Clerk Pat Frank in 2020, when he reaches his term limit on the board of commissioners, he said Monday. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2018)] [Times (2016)]
Published May 1

Les Miller will run for clerk of circuit court with the endorsement of current Clerk Pat Frank in 2020, when he reaches his term limit on the board of commissioners, he said Monday.

For Miller, who's about to turn 68 and is chairman of the county board of commissioners, the position would cap a long public office career including serving in the state House and Senate, and briefly on the Tampa City Council.

For Frank, 89, who has become an iconic figure among Hillsborough County Democrats, her retirement at the end of her fourth clerk term in 2020 apparently will mark the end of an even longer and more varied political career.

That career began on the county school board in the early 1970s and continued through the state House, state Senate, the board of commissioners and then the clerk's office.

Frank's retirement creates a tempting open-seat opportunity that could draw a crowd of candidates.

Her endorsement of Miller could be important to some Democrats. That and his name recognition and influence as a sitting commissioner could make him a Democratic primary frontrunner.

At least one other prominent Democrat, former county Commissioner Kevin Beckner, has said he's considering running for the post. Beckner ran unsuccessfully in a primary against Frank in 2016, and there has been hostility between the two since.

"It's still my intention to consider running," Beckner said. "This is a democracy and we'll look forward to a great competition."

School board member Cindy Stuart has also been mentioned by local Dems as a possible candidate.

On the Republican side, county Commissioner Sandra Murman has already filed for the race and has a $193,008 campaign fund. She raised that money planning to leave her district seat last year to run for a countywide seat, but then decided to stay in the district seat, where she's term-limited next year.

Murman and Stuart couldn't be reached for comment early this week.

Miller said he decided to continue his political career because, "I've spent a great deal of my life in public service, in the Legislature, at USF, on the board of commissioners and in the Air Force and I want to continue that."

He said his time in the Legislature and on the board of commissioners has prepared him for the office. He said Frank has run it with integrity and efficiency and he hopes to continue that.

"I don't plan drastic changes," he said. "We'll see what happens as time goes on, but we don't hear anything negative about that office and I want to continue that."

Local Democrats not taking public stand on impeachment

At least one Florida Democratic U.S. House member, Val Demings, D-Orlando, has been quoted as saying there's enough evidence for the House to impeach President Donald Trump.

But the two Democrats from the Tampa Bay area, Kathy Castor of Tampa and Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, aren't taking a public stand yet one way or the other.

Both issued statements condemning Trump following the release of the Mueller report, but neither called explicitly for impeachment – although Crist's statement said the report made it "clear that the President attempted to obstruct the Mueller investigation" and therefore "may have acted unlawfully," and that Congress would have to decide how to respond.

Obstruction of justice has been cited as potential grounds for impeachment.

Neither Crist nor Castor responded directly to Times questions on the subject last week. Crist said he had nothing to add to his April 18 statement.

In that statement, Crist said that besides obstructing the investigation, the Trump campaign "knowingly trafficked in emails stolen by Russian operatives and channeled by Wikileaks for the purpose of winning the 2016 election. Those actions may not be criminal, but they are highly unethical."

Castor said the report "laid bare Trump's corrupt, selfish and disgraceful actions," and that Americans should be outraged "that the Russian government attacked our presidential election to boost Donald Trump and that Trump's response to this 'information warfare' was to embrace it."

Cohen back to clerk's office

Outgoing City Council member Harry Cohen, who just ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Tampa, will return this month to working in the Clerk of Circuit Court's office as general counsel for Clerk Pat Frank.

But Cohen acknowledges that's only temporary — he's expected to run for a county commissioner's seat in 2020.

"This is something I will do to get Pat through the end of her term," when Frank plans to retire in 2020 after her fourth term, he said. Cohen said he has no expectation of staying after that.

He'll replace the current counsel, Dale Bohner, who's retiring after serving as general counsel since Frank took office.

Cohen will start May 20 after some time off to catch up on personal and family business he let lapse during his mayoral campaign.

Cohen, 49, who once worked for the late trial lawyer Barry Cohen, said his major qualification for the job is having served from 2005-2011 as chief deputy clerk.

His salary isn't settled yet, he said, but will be no more than the $175,000 made by Bohner.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com

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