Democrats trounce Republicans in several 2012 Hillsborough races

11/07/12 Janelle Irwin
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Former State Democratic Representative Bob Henriquez defeated outgoing state Senator Ronda Storms for Hillsborough County Property appraiser by a comfortable margin. More than 100 supporters met at a restaurant in Tampa to celebrate. Many of them, including Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen said some voters might have been turned off by Storms’ social views.

“There may have been Romney voters who, for one reason or another, either thought that Rhonda Storms’ social positions were just way too conservative for their likely or voted positively for Henriquez because of the professional qualifications that he brought to this race.”

Henriquez unofficially accepted what will be his new job. Before his acceptance speech, campaign volunteers handed Henriquez a broom mocking a statement Storms made at a political forum in July saying she would bring her broom and clean up the mess in the Property Appraiser’s office. Henriquez awkwardly handed the broom off and then told supporters that he respected the current office holder, Rod Turner.

“Listen, I feel for what he’s going through and I know that whatever it is, his family’s hurting, he’s hurting, he’s spent 16 years building an office – I’m going to step into that office and do the best job that I can, but I honor his service and the 16 years that he spent there regardless of the circumstances involved and I’ve tried to keep it on that level all along. And Senator Storms – she the other day in one of our candidate forums I said something about that and she kind of dismissed it, but I do, honestly, respect her service.”

Turner’s chances for reelection took a hit after a staff member accused him of emailing her pornography. Storms, a social conservative, ran largely on bringing morals and value back to the office. She started the race strong after beating Turner in the primary with 70% of the vote. But after the Tampa Bay Times and the Tampa Tribune endorsed Henriquez he said it was all downhill from there.

“We had Democrats. We had liberals, moderates, conservatives, all the labels you want to throw out there, they all came on board and they were all part of team Henriquez and they didn’t care about the politics involved and a lot of people took – I don’t care what people think, I don’t care what a party thinks and said, ‘well you’re the right person for the job.’ They put their trust in me and I understand that and you know what, if we would do that across the board we would have a lot better political process.”

Supporters at Henriquez’s victory party ate Italian food and cake and drank from a well-stocked bar. Henriquez himself danced and sang with his wife in front of about 100 people. Michael Villa said he voted for Henriquez because he represents the average homeowner and not big banks.

“He’s a regular guy. He believes in hard work. His ethical standards are as high as it gets. He’s a people person. He’s a high school football coach and when you can get 16, 17 year old kids to do what you ask them to do day after day, week after week that speaks volumes at how well you motivate people and I think the office needs that. I think they’re going to get it and I’m really glad he was elected.”

Across town at the Republican Party of Florida’s election night reception in a downtown Tampa hotel, former Hillsborough Republican County Commissioner Rose Ferlita reacted to Ronda Storms’ defeat by Henriquez.

“I think he’ll do a good job. Rhonda Storms probably had the expertise to do that as well. Bobby was looking for something to come back into politics for so, I congratulate him and I’m happy that this was a fit for him.”

Henriquez campaigned on cutting waste in the office and exploring new technology to make it more efficient. Henriquez won the election with 52% of the vote. In another Hillsborough race, Democrat Craig Latimer defeated his opponent, Republican State Representative Rich Glorioso for Supervisor of Elections. Ferlita said even though she worked with Glorioso in the legislature, she’s confident Latimer will serve the position well.

At the same Republican election party, Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, who won reelection, is looking ahead to future elections.

“I heard that we did lose our constitutional seats and probably the local party is going to be doing some internal looking at how they ran the grassroots campaign and reassess it and just go into the next set of elections.”

Latimer and Glorioso disagreed on some contentious voting access issues. Glorioso voted for changes to Florida’s voting law that shortened the number of early voting days. He also supported purging the voter rolls before the election to avoid fraud. Latimer opposed both of those issues.

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