1. Florida Politics

Hagan, Crist seat-swap a no-deal

Published Jun. 4, 2015

The long-simmering allegations of a "seat swap" between Hillsborough County commissioners Ken Hagan and Victor Crist can be put to rest, Crist says.

The alleged deal: Crist and Hagan both face term-limits in 2018. But Crist would leave his district seat vacant in 2016 to run for Clerk of Court, or something, and Hagan would leave his countywide seat two years early to run to replace Crist.

If successful, the maneuver would allow Hagan to circumvent term limits and complete some 20 years on the county board.

Crist denies any such deal ever existed. The proof, he says, will come in a few months when he files to run for Hagan's countywide seat when Hagan's term ends in 2018.

Meanwhile, Hagan said he's looking at the 2019 Tampa mayor's race.

Danish looking ahead

Speaking of 2019 – former state Rep. Mark Danish, now retired from his public school teaching job, says he's planning a run for Tampa City Council when Lisa Montelione terms out.

Blowback from Tea Party putsch?

Did a Tea Party takeover of the local Republican Party lead to the party moving its headquarters?

Immediately after Deborah Tamargo's surprise election as chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party in January, the party moved out of a Brandon office building owned by major donor Sam Rashid, where it's been for about a decade.

It's now in an office complex on North 56th Street.

Asked why, both Tamargo and Rashid said it was a matter of economics, and not about politics.

Or well, maybe, sort of.

Rashid had been giving the party a good deal on the rent. But even so, said Tamargo, the space, in a desirable location off Brandon Parkway, is larger and more expensive than the party needs in a non-election year. Plus, Rashid had a chance to rent it to a tenant who will pay full freight, he said.

Still, Rashid acknowledged he doesn't have much of a relationship with Tamargo, who won the office with Tea Party backing when the former chairman, state Sen. Tom Lee, said he wasn't running again.

Rashid is good friends with former Chairman Deborah Cox-Roush, who mounted an unsuccessful last-minute campaign against Tamargo.

If Cox-Roush had won, Rashid said, "I probably would have let them stay."

Tamargo won as part of a slate including vice chairman Chris Shalosky and secretary Sharon Calvert, both leaders in the Tampa Tea Party, and Jeff Lukens of the Brandon 912 group as treasurer.

Seidel shows some bona fides

He may be a long shot, but Republican and former TV consumer advocate Eric Seidel shows signs of trying to mount a serious campaign for Circuit Court clerk.

Seidel said this week his financial report to be filed next week will show he's raised about $30,500 since he began his campaign May 4.

That includes only $5 of his own money – just testing his online credit card donation system -- and no campaign kickoff fundraiser. He's planning one June 25.

But it will take a lot more to beat the winner of a likely Democratic primary full of big names – incumbent Clerk Pat Frank, county Commissioner Kevin Beckner.

And the list keeps growing...

Now that Janet Dougherty is out of the race to fill Kevin Beckner's seat on the county board, will any big-name Republican file to challenge Jim Norman in a primary?

Some Republicans hope so. The list of names bandied about is long but not very convincing when it comes to beating Norman, the energizer bunny of campaigning, and most are unconfirmed by the individuals themselves. Nonetheless, here goes:

Ronda Storms – former state senator has failed in the past to make the jump from her East Hillsborough base to countywide office. She didn't return calls, but tends to lie low until she's ready to announce.

Ray Young – well liked but not well-known.

Sharon Calvert – can a Tea Party-style Republican win countywide?

E.J. Otero – retired Air Force intelligence officer got nowhere against Democrat Kathy Castor in 2012. County Chairman Deborah Tamargo says he's interested.

Tim Schock – managed to run in a primary against Al Higginbotham in 2014 without making a lot of enemies; confirms he's interested.

Hillsborough Dems get new chairman

Meet the new chairman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party: Elizabeth Belcher, a retired IRS investigator ("The criminal side, not the civil side," she emphasized) who's from East Hillsborough.

The conservative, GOP-voting east county is the area, ironically, where there seems to have been the most dynamism from local Democrats in recent years.

Belcher stayed out of politics as a federal employee, but got into grass-roots activism on community issues in East Hillsborough, including pushing for the Cone Ranch preserve and the Seffner-Mango Branch Library, the county's only science- and match-focused branch. "Kids can check out microscopes and telescopes," she says proudly.

Elected to the post in December after her only opponent dropped out, she wants to bring that grass-roots focus to the county party.

"For years and years and years the Democrats have been dysfunctional,'' she said. "We need to start getting ourselves organized, do training for candidates and coordinate with the campaigns. My goal is to organize the county and have precinct workers out there."

William March can be reached at