Candidates spar at Hillsborough election forum

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Yesterday evening, eight of 10 candidates for Hillsborough County Circuit Court attended a forum at the West Tampa Library, sponsored by the Hillsborough County GLBTA Democratic Caucus, the Northwest Hillsborough Democrats, and the Hillsborough County Black Democratic Caucus.

The two-hour event was moderated by WMNF’s Mitch Perry, and provided a forum for each candidate to field questions on their individual backgrounds and give their perspective on the judicial system challenges. There are two candidates in each of the five judicial circuit court races in Hillsborough county; the races are groups 1, 2,7, 21, and 30. The strongest themes were on budgeting challenges, and the elevated incarceration rates overall, particularly among African-Americans.

The candidates offered differing thoughts on addressing the challenge of sustained budget cuts. Some believe the judicial system budgets cannot be cut further without creating drastic problems in the county, and that the solution is lobbying for more funding.

One of the most difficult problems facing the judicial system is the high rate of incarceration overall in the United States. Moderator Mitch Perry challenged the candidates to articulate their approaches in addressing the issue.

After the moderated session, the audience asked questions. Dr. Bruce Miles, president of the Hillsborough County Black Democratic Caucus, questioned the candidates on the inordinately high rate of incarceration of African Americans.

One thing the candidates agreed on is that rehabilitation and punishment alternatives are key to improving the judicial system and society in general, but that ongoing funding pressures present an ongoing challenge with no easy answers. The judicial elections will be held on Aug. 26.

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