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Candidates seeking South County votes on tap Thursday evening

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Area candidates for national, state and county offices seeking the support of South County voters are expected at a public forum here Thursday night.

By MELODY JAMESON

RIVERVIEW – Area candidates for national, state and county offices seeking the support of South County voters are expected at a public forum here Thursday night.

The event is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn, located in the Crescent Office Park, immediately east of U.S. 301and north of the I-75 overpass. It is being co-sponsored by the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce and the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce.

Some 20 candidates for a U.S. House of Representatives seat as well as for state senate and state house seats, plus a number of office seekers on the county level have been invited to participate in the forum designed to give voters face-to-face time with those who want to represent them, noted Tonya Doran, the Riverview chamber’s executive director. Early this week, 14 had confirmed their appearances, she added.

The forum structure will give each candidate three minutes for a general introduction, Doran said, with a question and answer period following. Questions, which have been collected from chamber members and will be chosen at random by the moderator, then will be directed to appropriate candidates. The candidates will have no prior knowledge of the questions to be asked, Doran asserted.

Dr. Bryan Thatcher, a Riverview businessman, will serve as moderator. Members of SouthShore Toastmasters are to be time keepers during the event.

County office seekers invited to participate include Bob Henriquez, Democrat, and Ronda Storms, Republican, as well as James DeMio and Robert Townsend, both running with no party affiliation. They are campaigning to become Hillsborough County Property Appraiser. Candidates for the county’s Supervisor of Elections post, Democrat Craig Latimer and Republican Rich Glorioso also are on tap. In the District 4 county commission race, Mark Nash, Democrat, Al Higginbotham, the Republican incumbent, and Joy Green, NPA, all have been invited as have Kevin Beckner, Democrat and incumbent District 6 county commissioner, and Margaret Iuculano, his Republican challenger.

Terry Kemple and Carol Kurdell, seeking the District 7 seat on the Hillsborough County School Board, are among the invitees.

Incumbent U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, a Democrat, and her challenger, Evelio “EJ” Otero, Republican, top the invitation list. Candidates for the state house seat representing District 59, Democrat Gail Gottlieb and Republican Ross Spano , are expected. So are Bruce Barnett, Democrat, and Jake Raburn, Republican, who are vying for the District 57 slot in the state house.

Elizabeth Belcher, Democrat, and Tom Lee, Republican, are competing for enough votes to put them in the state senate representing District 24.

While candidates’ forums have been conducted in other parts of the South County during previous election cycles, this is the first one to be undertaken by the chambers, Doran pointed out, and the objective is to bring value to the community on a non-partisan basis. “How can we expect our representatives to know where we stand on the issues important to us, if we do not tell them,” the director asked rhetorically, adding “our votes do count.”

Doran also noted the forum doors will open at 5:30 PM, a cash bar will be available and voters will have an opportunity to speak one-on-one with candidates following the formal questioning. Participation is free of charge.

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson

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