1. Florida Politics

March column: Higginbotham still undecided about transit tax

Published Aug. 1, 2015

Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham is going on the road to campaign for "undecided'' on the proposal for a half-cent sales tax for transportation needs.

Higginbotham said he's got about two-dozen appearances scheduled at civic clubs and homeowners' associations to talk about the proposal, but still hasn't made up his mind whether he's for or against it.

"I want to see what the referendum proposal looks like," he said. "I want to see what the feel of the citizens is … I'm not keen on a tax, but the feedback that I'm getting in the field is people are supportive of this."

Higginbotham said he'll speak on "the problems we're faced with and the available resources."

In 2010, Higginbotham helped defeat the proposal for a 1-cent tax, saying there wasn't enough citizen input and making some 80 appearances campaigning against it. He said then he'd try to come up with better proposal.

Brandon lawyer is new Tiger Bay leader

The Tampa Tiger Bay Club board has elected Brandon lawyer and Republican Adam Bantner its new president, filling the unexpired term of Chris Ingram, who surprised members by announcing his resignation last week.

Ingram, who has a young family, said he wants to spend more time with them.

Democratic political consultant Greg Wilson, formerly vice president, wanted to run, but under club rules requiring a partisan mix of officerholders, the board decided only a Republican could replace the Republican Ingram.

Bantner, whose term runs through 2016, said his goal is "to continue bringing exciting programs to the community and our members and allow the kind of back-and-forth and unscripted access Tiger Bay is known for."

Who's pushing Jim Norman?

Former County Commissioner and state Sen. Jim Norman says he's "shocked" by the number of people who want him to get back on the board of commissioners, and he's still leaning toward running for the countywide District 6 seat being vacated by Kevin Beckner.

So who are the people pushing Norman?

Speculation has it that two of the leaders are lobbyist Louis Betz and George Sucarichi, a former official in the politically active county firefighters union. Both are previous Norman backers.

In an interview, Betz wouldn't say whether he favors Norman, and said, "I don't urge people to run for office."

Sucarichi, who now has a private investigations firm, said he's backing Norman.

Murphy keynotes local Dems dinner

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a U.S. Senate candidate, will be the keynote speaker at the county Democratic Party's Kennedy-King Dinner, its biggest annual fundraising event, Sept. 12 at Tampa Palms Country Club.

Murphy faces a primary against more liberal Rep. Alan Grayson, backed by many in the party's progressive caucus. County party chairman said at the time she issued the invitation, Grayson had yet to file.

Another note on Higginbotham …

In another lesson for pet owners and parents, Higginbotham narrowly averted tragedy last week when his beloved dog Penny hid under his car in the driveway during an intense storm. He hit her backing out, causing a severe laceration but no broken bones; the vet promises full recovery.

When it happened, "I found out what will make me cry," he said.

William March can be reached at wemarch@gmail.com


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