Deadline for Hillsborough County Commission candidates comes and goes by Mitch E. Perry

06/19/06

Today (Monday) was the deadline for candidates running for the Hillsborough County Commission to submit valid signatures to get on the 2006 ballot, and only 3 candidates got their signatures in on time to avoid paying a filing fee to qualify for the Primary ballot this September. (roll tape)

Over the weekend in Tampa, 1st time candidate Mary Mulhern and 3 volunteers, including her daughter, stood with clipboards and petition sheets courting would shopper walking into a Walmart on Dale Mabry Highway to see if they were eligible to sign her petition to help her gain ballot access.(roll tape#1 o.q.�decent roads�)

For Hillsborough Democrats, Mulhern’s candidacy is an important one. The incumbent, Kathy Castor, is one of only 2 Democrats on the current Commission – but she’s leaving to run for Congress. In many a vote, perhaps none more notoriously than the ban on gay pride events last year, Castor has been the lone vote in opposition to the rest of the Commission.

And with 2 Republicans with arguably better name recognition and financial support, the District 1 seat may be difficult to keep in the Democratic ledger. (roll tape#2 o.q.�when the election comes up�)

On this early Saturday afternoon, stifling humidity is starting to rise off the asphalt of the parking lot in front of Walmart, but its not discouraging Mulhern’s crew of volunteers all wearing blue T-shirts. She needs to get 1480 valid signatures turned in to the Supervisor’s of elections office by June 19th, or have to pay to get on the ballot, which in her case would cost over $4,000. Before Monday, only 3 County Commision candidates had submitted enough valid signatures. Two of them are the Republicans in the race, Tampa City Councilwoman Rose Ferlita and former Chamber of Commerce official Brad Swanson (roll tape#3 o.q.� )

Mulhern has never ran for political office. She has been a Democratic Party activist in recent years in Tampa, and also worked for a time as the Art critic for the Weekly Planet. WMNF asked her what is was like pressing the flesh and trying to get her name out to a public that has never heard of her (roll tape#4 o.q.�If I didn’t have to raise any money�)

One of her volunteers is Francine Simmons , who hosted a meet and greet for gubernatorial candidate Rod Smith earlier this month (roll tape#5 o.q. “would you help us?�)

While some people blow Mulhern and her associates off, others are kinder but explain they don’t live in her District, . And then there are others, like Edith Webb, who end up telling their own personal story to the candidate. In Webb’s case, she was living in a mobile home park that was bought out by a developer, and now she’s living with one of her sons in Hernando County (roll tape#5 o.q.�more convenient to us�)

One woman who signed Mulhern’s petition spoke to WMNF but wished to remain anonymous, saying she worked for the Tampa Police Department. She said she hasn’t been impressed by the Board of County Commission’s actions of late (roll tape#6 o.q.� Not much is being done�)

This afternoon WMNF was informed by the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office that only Ferlita, Swanson, and Tampa City Councilman Kevin White, who is running for the County Commission District 3 seat, did get in the sufficient number of signatures in time.

For all of those who intend to still run, they will now have 1 month to get in the filing feee. That will include Mary Mulhern.

Also running for the Democratic nomination for District I is Steven Eckstein,

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