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  1. Florida Politics

March column: Could new Senate maps pit Cruz vs. Young and Brandes vs. Latvala?

Where will the Tampa Bay area's new Senate districts go?

The Legislature is struggling to come up with a new congressional district map, but will face the state Senate map next.

Democratic political consultant Barry Edwards thinks he knows something about what lawmakers might do.

He thinks, in fact, the new Senate districts could end up pitting Tampa Reps. Janet Cruz, Democrat, and Dana Young, Republican, against each other in a toss-up contest, while putting Republican Sens. Jack Latvala and Jeff Brandes in the same Pinellas district.

Edwards produced a hypothetical map with two districts dividing Pinellas roughly from southeast to northwest. The northern/eastern district would include both Latvala and Brandes.

Hillsborough County south of Brandon, plus a chunk of southern Polk, replaces Sen. Tom Lee's current district. Northern Hillsborough is divided roughly along Interstate 275, creating one district including all of South Tampa, Town 'N Country and northwest Hillsborough. Edwards says where Cruz and Young might duke it out is a partisan toss-up that went narrowly for Obama in 2012.

How likely is something like Edwards' map to become reality?

"I wouldn't know," Lee said. "There's just mass confusion and chaos because of all the unanswered questions."

Challenge to Ober?

Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober has had an easy political ride since winning his office in 2000 over Robert Shimberg. He's been unopposed in three straight elections.

Some Democrats hope they've found someone take him on: Tampa-based federal fraud prosecutor Andrew Warren.

In an interview, Warren didn't offer them much encouragement. He said he's interested in staying in public service in Tampa, possibly in electoral politics, but isn't certain what office or what election year.

He confirmed some Democrats have discussed the race with him, including prominent trial lawyer Barry Cohen.

Still, Ober may be taking precautions. Long-time advisor Mark Proctor said Ober has asked him to plan on "an active role" in this year's campaign.

Slow local fundraising

July, never a good political fundraising month, was slow for most local candidates with two exceptions — court Clerk Pat Frank and Tax Collector Doug Belden.

Belden, already well ahead of any other local candidate though he's unopposed, added $46,490 for a total of $169,865.

Frank started off her Democratic primary battle with County Commissioner Kevin Beckner with $52,775. Beckner pulled in only $14,357, but still leads Frank 2-1 overall with $108,216.

Republican clerk candidate Eric Seidel drew $4,024, and remains behind both Democrats at $38,108 total.

Norman announcement looms

Word from various GOP insiders, including local party chairman Deborah Tamargo, is that former county commissioner and state senator Jim Norman is garnering pledges of financial support with an eye to an early September announcement of his campaign for the countywide District 6 commission race.

A big first fundraising month, plus Norman's legendary retail campaigning ability, might scare off primary competitors. Republicans who want an alternative are still urging E.J. Otero to run; Otero said he's discussing it with potential backers but is not ready to decide.

Despite appearances, "I'll be surprised if there isn't a robust Republican primary" in the race, said state Sen. Tom Lee.

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