Beckner defeats Blair for Commission seat
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11/07/08 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

After nearly 48 hours of vote counting, Hillsborough County finally knows who its next commissioner will be. Democrat Kevin Beckner soundly defeated incumbent Republican Brian Blair.

WMNF spoke with Beckner outside the Supervisor of Elections Office on Falkenberg Road last night and asked how he felt about the victory.

“Absolutely ecstatic right now and very happy and very grateful to the people of Hillsborough County.”

With about 3,700 provisional ballots yet to be counted Friday evening and an untold number of overseas absentee ballots to be counted next week, Beckner’s margin of victory stands at more than 49,000 votes. Beckner said that he had not heard from his opponent, Brian Blair as of Thursday night.

Beckner promised to work with the other commissioners once he takes his seat on the dais.

County Commissioner Kevin White, who was a member of the three-person canvassing board responsible for overseeing the vote count, congratulated his new colleague on his victory.

Another member of the canvassing board and the County Commission, Rose Ferlita, praised Beckner’s experience in financial planning and law enforcement, and said she hopes he can help build consensus on the commission.

Beckner’s campaign manager is Mitch Kates, who also engineered the upset victories of state Sen. Charlie Justice in 2006 and Tampa City Council Member Mary Mulhern in 2007. Kates reacted to Beckner’s win.

Kates said that even though Beckner was the first openly gay candidate to win countywide, citizens were not interested in that, they were more concerned with issues. “He just wanted to see better government.”

WMNF asked Kates how it felt having to delay Beckner’s victory celebration for two days because of problems in tallying the vote by the Supervisor of Elections Office and their optical scan machine vendor, Premier Election Solutions.

“We’re standing in a parking lot outside of Falkenberg, and it’s upsetting, it’s disappointing. … unfortunately, because of what we had to deal with, that moment of time [on Tuesday night] was taken away.”

Even though Brian Blair lost his seat on the County Commission, two other incumbent Republicans Ken Hagan and Al Higginbotham easily defeated their opponents.

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