Sue Carlton: Competent but creepy or political zealotry? Republicans get to pick

Published June 9, 2012

Interesting dilemma for Republican primary voters in a normally yawn-inducing race to be Hillsborough County property appraiser.

Do you stick with: Competent, but creepy?

Or go for: Untainted by scandal, but unable to keep personal beliefs out of public office?

To put it another way: Do you vote to keep four-termer Rob Turner — despite his admission that he sent multiple porn-related emails to an employee he once dated, and despite the fact that taxpayers could end up with the legal tab?

Or do you opt for state Sen. Ronda Storms, who never met an issue that couldn't benefit from her own religious beliefs, and who might even put a little fire-and-brimstone in the dry but important business of assessing property?

Once the two duke it out, throw in Democratic former state Rep. Bob Henriquez and no-party-affiliation candidates James DeMio and Rob Townsend, for One Interesting Race, Part II.

But first, one tough Republican cage match.

Storms, not exactly your step-lightly kind of candidate, jumped in following the news that Turner sent his human resources director Carolyn Filippone hard-core pornographic emails. Turner, who is married, says it was an exchange both mutual and consensual. Filippone, fired as the Times was about to break the story, is expected to sue. In short, a mess.

Enter Storms, who said this week: "To me, it shows a complete and utter disrespect for women, and a flagrant disrespect for the taxpayers." Say what you will about her, but she's already smartly set her sights on two sets of voters.

Turner? He touts his credentials and says the office is not a place where a politician, as in Storms, "can park themselves for four years and collect a paycheck." He hopes to persuade everyone to focus solely on how well he has run the place for 16 years. Good luck with that.

Maybe voters would have found the porn story too distasteful to dwell on, or bought his line about it being a personal, private matter. (One more time: He. Was. Her. Boss. He. Sent. Her. Porn.) But taxpayers are in no mood for his legal bills if and when she sues.

Popular in her Senate district, Storms also has a strong contingent of naysayers because of her willingness to use her position on everything from banning local government from recognizing gay pride events to making it more burdensome to get an abortion. Could her candidacy actually turn voters to Turner?

One more thought: If Storms is going to be part of the political landscape anyway, might some voters prefer her in a quieter role — not sponsoring bills, not pushing controversial measures, not bickering on a board?

Me, I had this wild thought that, unable to stand all this messiness when there's governing to be done, former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio sweeps in like Mary Poppins, all oh-for-goodness-sake about it, easily wins and quickly restores order. But maybe she's contemplating a bigger mess in Tallahassee.

Who will be the Republican contender? For now, only one answer: It won't be boring finding out.

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Friday's column about a disabled woman's parking troubles in downtown Tampa should have said a hearing officer, not a judge, made her pay a ticket.