TAMPA — At the remarkable age of 86, Democrat Pat Frank is headed to a fourth term as Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court.
Frank won re-election over Republican and former TV news reporter Eric Seidel on Tuesday night, winning 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent.
Frank, who hadn't faced a challenge since she was first elected in 2004, won a bruising primary against Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner in August. The contentious campaign between two well-liked local Democrats ended with Beckner refusing to endorse Frank.
Seidel, 54, capitalized on the rancor in the primary by promising to run a positive campaign and he maintained that position during the general election.
Frank willingly offered news that Seidel called her to concede after results came in, a not-so-subtle jab at Beckner.
"I appreciated the very honorable way he ran the campaign and how positive it was," Frank said. "I told him that I considered him a friend and he said he considered me a friend, too."
Despite his previous career in local television, it was difficult for Seidel to overcome Frank's overwhelming name recognition from a decades-long career in public office.
He also faced an uphill climb in an electorate that leaned Democrat this cycle. Hillsborough County voted to elect Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
For Frank, the victory continues a legendary life in public office that began with a 1972 race for Hillsborough County school board and took her through the state House of Representatives, the state Senate, the Hillsborough County Commission and ultimately the clerk's office.
It also caps a difficult year for Frank, who lost her daughter Stacy Frank to cancer in June.
Election Day came four days before Frank's 87th birthday, though she never thought age should determine the victor, she said.
"If you're in good physical shape and mental shape and doing the job well why should age be a deterrent?" Frank said. "Older people should recognize that no door is closed until they choose to close it."
Contact Steve Contorno at email@example.com. Follow @scontorno.