By LINDA CHION KENNEY
This year’s races for Hillsborough County offices are shaping up with active candidates passing their qualification requirements, filling their campaign coffers and bracing themselves for key election dates fast approaching.
Overall, 169 Hillsborough County candidates have qualified for local elections, including 34 candidates vying for county commission, school board, county court judge or soil and water conservation district seats. The remaining candidates are in races for community development or special taxing district seats.
Candidates had until 12:59 p.m. Friday, June 17, to qualify for inclusion on the ballot for Primary Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 23. The Florida Department of State has seven days from the qualification deadline to give the list its final stamp of approval.
Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said voters by early July can look up their Primary Election Day sample ballot at VoteHillsborough.gov and see in which races they qualify to cast their votes.
“Primary ballots are based on the districts you live in and party affiliation,” Latimer said. “Florida has closed primaries, so voters must be registered with a political party to vote in that party’s Primary Election. All voters, whether affiliated with a party or not, will vote on nonpartisan issues and races, including school boards, judges and Universal Primary Contests, which occur when all candidates in a race have the same party affiliation and the winner would be unopposed in the General Election.”
As a result, Latimer said, it is important to recognize that some races could be determined with the Primary Election Day ballot.
The deadline to register or change party affiliation is July 25. The deadline to request Vote by Mail is 5 p.m. Aug. 13. Primary Election early voting runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Aug. 6-21. Primary Election Day polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Aug. 23. To meet the Vote By Mail deadline, ballots must be in the supervisor of elections office no later than 7 p.m. Aug. 23.
In all, eight candidates have qualified to run for a seat on the Hillsborough County School Board, including incumbent Stacy Hahn, who faces one opponent in District 2, and Karen Perez, who faces two opponents in District 6. School board races are nonpartisan.
Collectively, the eight school board candidates raised $230,968, according to a June 19 review of the data posted by the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office, with the two incumbent candidates accounting for 60.7 percent of the total. Hahn, who raised $78,625, faces off against Damaris Allen, who raised $32,735. Meanwhile, Perez raised $61,615, for her race against Alysha “Aly Marie” Legge ($18,547.99) and Roshaun Gendrett ($15,794.78).
Running in District 4 are Patricia “Patti” Rendon ($23,350), Hunter Gambrell ($300) and Danielle Smalley, who has raised no funds to date. The seat is currently held by Melissa Snively, who is not seeking re-election.
In all, 12 candidates have qualified to run for a seat on the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, including incumbent Democrat Gwen Myers, who is running unopposed in District 3. The District 6 at-large seat, held by Democrat Pat Kemp, is up for reelection in 2024.
Meanwhile, the seven qualified Republican candidates for this year’s race raised $719,154, according to a June 19 review of the data posted by the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office. This compares to the $521,755 raised by the five Democrat candidates.
Collectively, the 12 candidates raised $1.24 million, with two candidates, Republicans Ken Hagan and Michael Owen, accounting for 49.5 percent of the total. Hagan, the incumbent in District 2, raised $344,435 and faces off against Democrat Angela Birdson, who raised $24,825.
Owen, in District 4, raised $270,485, and faces off against Republican Noelle Licor, who raised $7,290. Currently in the seat is Stacy White, who is leaving office because of term limits. Owen most recently ran for the District 59 seat in the Florida House of Representatives, which he lost to Democrat Andrew Learned in a tight race in 2020.
In their 2022 bid to hold on to their county commission seats, the five incumbent candidates have raised 68 percent of the $1.24 million raised by all 12 candidates as of June 19, which accounts for campaign contributions collected by Republican Hagan (District 2, $344,435), Democrat Mariella Smith (District 5, $150,057), Democrat Harry Cohen (District 1, $125,468), Democrat Kimberly Overman (District 7, $121,295) and Democrat Gwen Myers ($100,110).
Among the six candidates seeking to unseat incumbent contenders, Republican Joshua Wostal tops the list in his District 7 race against Overman, with $59,869 collected. Also in that race, Republican Chase Harrison clocks in at $11,488.59. Rounding out the race totals, Cohen, in District 1, faces off against Republican Scott D. Levinson ($13,460). Smith, in District 5, faces off against Republican Donna Cameron Cepeda ($12,126).
For updates and more, visit www.VoteHillsborough.gov/.