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Tampa Bay candidates respond to Times editorial board recommendations
The Times made recommendations in more than 35 races.
I Voted stickers wait for voters to pick them up after voting.
I Voted stickers wait for voters to pick them up after voting. [ DERIK HOLTMANN | Belleville News-Democrat ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Aug. 13|Updated Aug. 22

Editor’s note: The Tampa Bay Times provides an opportunity for candidates not recommended by the Times Editorial Board to respond. Here are the responses from the local candidates who took us up on the offer. You can find all of the recommendations by clicking here.

U.S. representative, District 13, Republicans

Amanda Makki

Thank you for the opportunity to tell Pinellas Republicans why they should vote for me on Aug. 23.

  • According to the Democrats’ own polling, I am the only conservative who can win this seat in November by 5 points. Anna Paulina Luna would lose to the Democrat, and Kevin Hayslett would win only in the margin of error, by 2.
  • I have the endorsements of 13 Pinellas County mayors — more than any Republican or Democrat in this race because our mayors know who will deliver for Pinellas the way Rep. Bill Young did for over 40 years!
  • I’m the only candidate who has been to the southern border and visited with local law enforcement during the Biden administration.
  • I’m the only candidate who has fought for election integrity since 2010 as a Republican lawyer, most recently in Wisconsin during the 2020 recount.

We have one chance to save our country. On Aug. 23, please vote for me.

District 14, Republicans

Jerry Torres

I am pleased to report that despite liberal attacks the appeals court has permanently reinstated me to the ballot and all votes will count. I am the true conservative. I am a service-disabled special forces veteran and a successful businessman. I know how to help small and medium sized businesses and restore fiscal restraint. I performed border security work from both the public and private sector and know how to secure our border. I have performed charitable work here and abroad. Quite frankly, I am the only person in this race who is running to serve others. Only I have the personal resources to elect a conservative in this seat and restore sanity to Washington. Do not miss a rare opportunity to hire a genuine patriot, public servant, and conservative as your next U.S. representative. Please vote for me, a conservative Republican for Congress. Thank you and God bless America.

District 15, Republicans

Kevin “Mac” McGovern

I am the best candidate based on my unique qualifications. I am a retired U.S. Navy captain and engineer who has served in Washington, D.C. at the highest levels of government, but not as a political insider. I have served across the globe over decades with the Navy and have firsthand experience in foreign affairs. My war experience in Afghanistan and as one who was awarded the Bronze Star, I have firsthand knowledge regarding the perils of the U.S. entering a war. I have patrolled the Taiwan Strait and have developed specific knowledge concerning Taiwan and the threat China poses to the United States. My engineering and experience as a small business owner and successful businessman also make me unique. As a decorated war veteran, federal budget expert and successful in business, my belief is that I am best suited to lead our nation in Congress.

Demetries “Commander” Grimes

I am the best choice to represent the people of Florida District 15. Members of Congress are tasked with the responsibility of spending America’s blood and treasure dealing with and defeating current threats and challenges while preparing to deter and defeat future threats and challenges. A combat decorated veteran, diplomat, military prosecutor and judge, I have seen and felt the consequences of bad leadership in Washington in combat and conflict zones around the world. The people of Florida and America will have no greater ally in Washington. In an age of institutionalized corruption at all levels of government and once trusted institutions like the media, it’s time to take a stand against the professional politicians and radical left responsible for the crisis we are dealing with. As a Navy pilot, I delivered our nation’s message to the enemy. As your congressman, I will deliver your message to Washington.

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Democrats

Eddie Geller

This newspaper’s editorial board said I “might be too progressive for this district.” That’s nonsense.

I’m running on the issues that matter most to voters: making the economy work for everyone — not just big corporations and millionaires — protecting democracy, more affordable health care, lower drug prices, better schools and tackling the climate crisis head-on.

I will always stand up for our fundamental rights, including the right to have an abortion. I will never be afraid to “say gay” no matter what Gov. Ron DeSantis says. And I’ll fight back against any Republican attempts to make it harder to vote.

I got into this race to do things differently, not to follow some poll-tested idea of what a middle-of-the-road politician should do.

Voters are tired of the same-old, same-old. We have to be brave enough to communicate our vision and values in ways that don’t make people tune out. And let’s spread some joy while we’re at it.

District 16, Republicans

Martin Hyde

The assertion that my opponent Vern Buchanan is the “clear” choice might be true if you’re a Democrat as he’s consistently voted to support Democrat policies from backing the anti-Second Amendment HR8 bill to certifying the 2020 election and voting against President Donald Trump’s veto on the defense bill. The offshore drilling ban near Florida, which the Times Editorial Board mentions as a good thing, is in part why gas spiked to over $5 a gallon. I agree my opponent is a “clear choice” for those who think the swamp in Washington, D.C., is a good thing. Everyone is entitled to their opinion which is why as the saying goes “They run the ponies at Belmont,” but the only opinion that matters in this race is that of the voters of Florida District 16 who have the opportunity to reject an incumbent who in my opinion has never passed a single significant bill of his own (unless you count animal welfare) in his time in the swamp.

Related: Read the Times recommendations in the 2022 primary election.

Florida Agricultural Commissioner, Republicans

James Shaw

Dear patriots! I am pro-Second Amendment and America First and a great patriot. When the Gettysburg Battlefield monument was said to be under threat from Antifa, I dropped everything I was doing in South Florida and drove through the night with my sons and stood guard against anyone who would harm the monument. I am a patriot and the right man for this position. Please vote for me in the Aug. 23 primary! Don’t vote for the RINO! Vote for me to protect your Second Amendment rights.

Democrats

J.R. Gaillot

I have devoted most of my career to being a “fixer.” Working in crisis management, I have seen vulnerable Floridians first hand, and I intend to make them my focus if elected as Agriculture Commissioner. My platform is centered around the idea of protecting average consumers like you and me. My main policy goals are:

  • To hold corporations and companies responsible for their price gouging.
  • Lower inflation and rent.
  • Fight fraud by ending predatory practices.

As a child, I was influenced by my grandmother’s belief that “we are all equals, which means everyone deserves respect.” This being said, I want to focus on advocating for and representing our marginalized communities, which I have deep connections to considering my Haitian background. Unlike other candidates in this race, I am pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ, and anti-violence against women. In comparison to my opponents, I am the only one with a solid and dependable plan to deliver on my campaign promises. Vote for me, so we can fix Florida together.

State representative, District 58, Democrats

Joe Saportas

My name is Joe Saportas. When I become the state representative for District 58 (Clearwater, Clearwater Beach and Dunedin areas) I will respect the rights of Tampa Bay area women, suspended Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, the Disney Corporation and others to express their voices and their right to free speech. The National Organization for Women (NOW) has endorsed me for representative in this election, and I won’t back down!

I am currently state vice president for the Florida Democratic Hispanic caucus and I represent Hispanics. Additionally, I am deputy director for the elderly for the League of United Latin American Citizens and have been active in Pinellas County for over 14 years. I would appreciate your vote.

District 59, Republicans

Berny Jacques

I am a former prosecutor who worked with law enforcement to help keep our community safe, and Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed me to serve on the Judicial Nominating Commission. I will take that experience and my conservative values to Tallahassee to keep Florida free and thriving. I hope to earn your vote just like I earned endorsements from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Seminole Professional Firefighters Association as well as the NRA, Family Policy Council, Florida Realtors, and local leaders including former Largo Police Chief John Carroll, former Rep. Larry Ahern, Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters and Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard. These groups know that I will always put our community first and hold the politicians in Tallahassee accountable. Please vote for me, a conservative, in House District 59.

District 62, Democrats

Wengay “Newt” Newton

I am the only candidate born and raised in the district. I’ve been married to my soulmate Melissa for 32 years, and we have four adult children and seven grandchildren.

I am the most qualified, having served at the local level for eight years on the St. Petersburg City Council, and four years at the state level in the Florida Legislature. With the relationships and bridges that I built, I was able to bring home millions of dollars in much needed resources for projects in the district.

I’m the only lifelong Democrat in this closed Democratic primary. I am endorsed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Fraternal Order of Police, Florida Professional Firefighters, St. Petersburg Association of Firefighters Local 747, Tampa Firefighters local 754 and the Hillsborough County Firefighters Local 2294.

I humbly ask for your vote — by mail, during early voting or on Aug. 23. Thank You.

District 65, Republicans

Jake Hoffman

While I respect The Tampa Bay Times for their analysis, they will stand alone as the only high-profile recommendations for one of my opponents, Mike Minardi. I do actually like him; he’s a nice guy, and unlike my other opponent, Karen Gonzalez-Pittman, he talks publicly about his positions.

What I bring is a disruption to the establishment for both the Republican and Democratic parties. As an entrepreneur, I will bring innovative solutions to the state House on a multitude of issues.

We need somebody brave enough to discuss issues transparently even if it’s controversial, causes backlash or doesn’t poll well with a sub-section of voters. I will always be honest and upfront about why I take certain positions, and I will not hide from the people.

I encourage readers to do their research on all candidates and visit www.jakeforstatehouse.com to read my platform.

Hillsborough County Commission, District 4, Republicans

Noelle Licor

I am a wife, mother and small business owner. I grew up in Riverview and have spent most of my life in District 4. My love for our community is the driving force in my decision to run for county commission.

Our county has continued to thrive with rapid growth and development, yet that same surge has put a strain on our roadways, schools and utilities. It’s clear that our county must adopt a new approach to rapid growth. That makes infrastructure a priority. I will work hard to ensure that our communities have efficient, effective, and safe infrastructure, while supporting responsible growth.

I am the right Republican for the job. I am involved, informed and have a solid grasp of policy issues.

District 7, Republicans

Chase Harrison

Although I am disappointed not to have received the Times Editorial Board recommendation, I am the only candidate in County Commission District 7 who is not divisive in this election.

I want to foster real unity of purpose and progress where freedom from government burdens, excessive taxes and regulations will allow businesses to thrive, grow and provide jobs to lift those in need out of poverty and provide opportunities for all to live the American Dream here in Hillsborough County.

My primary opponent has acknowledged being removed from a commission meeting for his conduct and incumbent Kimberly Overman posted on social media in 2018 that the job required dealing with the “super stupid.” I am running for County Commission to serve you, not my ego, and I would be honored to receive your vote Aug. 23.

Hillsborough School Board, District 2

Damaris Allen

I’m an award-winning PTA leader. I’m endorsed by U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Kathy Castor, Equality Florida and the Sierra Club. Notably, the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association unanimously voted to endorse me over my opponent.

My past education work has made a difference, and my goals in running for school board are to steady the financial situation of the district and to ensure that students are taught in schools that are well-staffed. I also want families more engaged in schools and enhancement of the extracurricular activities that keep kids interested in school. I want to see students in our district thrive academically and socially. Unlike my opponent, who has pledged allegiance to Ron DeSantis’ education agenda in exchange for his endorsement and campaign contributions, I have never — and will never — sell out the students of Hillsborough County Public Schools.

I am the better choice for School Board, District 2. I encourage readers to view my website and to please consider voting for me.

Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge, Group 6

Belinda Noah

In this race, please vote for me because with over 39 years as a practicing attorney, I am the most experienced judicial candidate in the race. I am the only judicial candidate in the race who attained the Doctor of Juridical Science degree, the highest degree attainable by lawyers. As a woman and a native Floridian of African- American and Native American descent, I understand the importance of electing judges who truly reflect the values and diversity of the people they serve. In Hillsborough County, the majority of the defendants are minorities. It is important that we elect judges like me with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, because doing so promotes greater trust and confidence in our legal system. During vote by mail, early voting between Aug. 8–21, or at the polls on Aug. 23, please vote for me for Hillsborough County circuit court judge, Group 6.

Group 37

Nancy L. Jacobs

Hillsborough County is home to people of many faiths, and the Hillsborough County judiciary shares this religious diversity. While my faith is an important part of my life, judges must be guided only by the rule of law. I have lived my faith in my law practice by seeking justice and by volunteering my time to provide legal services to members of the military and to those who could not afford them, not by seeking to impose the tenets of my faith on others. I take that very seriously and wish that the Times Editorial Board had taken it as seriously in its recommendation. As a judge, I understand the impact that judicial decisions have on the lives of others, and I pledge to make them with humility and to be guided by the rule of law and integrity. I humbly ask for your vote on Aug. 23 for Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Group 37.

Hillsborough County Court Judge, Group 14

Alicia Whiting Bozich

County court is known as the “people’s court.” I am just an ordinary person. My mother is a Korean immigrant, and my father is a United States Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War. I grew up in a working class family in West Virginia. For several years, I was raised by a single mom. I worked tirelessly to put myself through school. I would bring all of those life experiences with me to the bench.

I also bring almost 20 years of civil litigation experience with me. I am the only candidate in this race authorized to practice in two states and eight different federal courts. My civil litigation experience is unmatched. I am the president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Tampa Bay. I give back to the community by volunteering with Metropolitan Ministries, Feeding Tampa Bay, and Bay Area Legal Services. I would appreciate your vote.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court judge, Group 22

Nicholas “Nick” Fiorentino

When selecting judges, it is important that candidates have a wide variety of experience in and out of the courtroom. I have represented clients and litigated matters in all major areas of law that a circuit court judge may be assigned including family, probate, civil, and criminal. I am a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator (Family Law), a Parent Coordinator and a Florida Supreme Court Qualified Arbitrator. I chose to run for circuit court judge because it is important for us to have judges who will work hard for the citizens they serve, will treat everyone before them with respect and will make timely and consistent rulings in the cases before them. Judges should serve the community in and out of the courtroom. My legal and community experience shows that I will do that if elected. Please visit my website at www.Fiorentino4Judge.com to review my qualifications, experience and community service.

Pinellas County Judge, Group 1

David Constantine Moran

I would like to thank the Times Editorial Board for giving me the opportunity to further tell you, the readers, why I am the best candidate for Pinellas County Judge in Group 1. I am the only candidate that has solely represented individuals for nearly 18 years, the very same people that will find themselves in county court, the “people’s court.” Diversity of experience on the bench is important. I bring the much needed perspective of both an assistant public defender and a private criminal defense attorney. The current makeup of the county court bench is almost exclusively former prosecutors. I am one of only 410 lawyers and judges of the 110,000+ members of the Florida Bar that is board certified in criminal trial law and the only candidate in my race with this distinction. An experienced, compassionate, and community-oriented judge is needed in county court, and I am that candidate. Thank you!

Megan Roach

As a St. Petersburg native, I’m the best choice for Pinellas County Court Judge, Group 1. I’m passionate about protecting our legal system here in Pinellas. I’m a Partner at Zinober, Diana, & Monteverde. I’ve had the opportunity to practice in almost every county in Florida, unlike other judicial candidates. I’ll use this experience to best serve the residents of Pinellas County. As a judge, my commitment will be to uphold our laws and constitution faithfully, while giving everyone a fair opportunity to be heard.

I’ve volunteered as president of the Junior League of St. Petersburg and Patrick Brett Foundation, on the board of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation, among my many other volunteer positions. I’m committed to continuing my record of community service. I have been endorsed by over 20 current and former local elected leaders because of my commitment to service. I ask for your vote on Aug. 23.

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