Incumbent Beckner takes on tea party challenger for Hillsborough County Commission seat

10/11/12 Janelle Irwin
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Last week we previewed candidates for Hillsborough County Commission district four. The countywide district 6 seat currently held by Kevin Beckner is also being contested this November. Beckner is being challenged by tea-party Republican Margaret Iuculano. At a Tiger Bay Club of Tampa meeting in early October, Beckner highlighted some of his priorities for the county which includes staying away from partisanship.

I’ve always been about working together to make sure that we can address the solutions. To me, it’s been about ideas not ideology; it’s been about people, not politics. And all of my major accomplishments, whether it’s helping stamp out prescription drug overdoses, whether it’s fighting insurance fraud, working with our at-risk youth to make them more productive citizens – it’s all bi-partisan work and sitting down and working together and that’s what we need to do as a country and that’s what we need to do as a country.”

Beckner’s opponent did not attend the question and answer event, but her campaign’s Facebook page accuses Beckner of using his position on county commission to award no-bid contracts to people he knew. But Beckner has his own beef with Iuculano who he says can’t be financially trusted.

“Unfortunately with her background, she has bankruptcies in her background, she has tax warrants – unpaid taxes – and while some people can excuse that on the personal side, taxpayers cannot afford to have those types of irresponsible decisions made in public office.”

But apart from name calling and finger pointing, Beckner is focusing on his experience on the commission to edge out a victory over Iuculano. Beckner said since taking office he has helped manage the county’s shrinking budget.

“We’ve been able to do that by pushing the pencil, working really hard and been able to really make a lot of the appropriate cuts that really don’t impact our overall quality of life or the public safety inside of our community.”

Beckner also wants to focus on expanding the county’s job market. But he said it’s important to focus on long-term, high-paying jobs.

We have been so dependent upon the construction and building industry, which is a very important part of our economy, but when a large percentage of your economy relies on that and that industry goes south and you don’t have that diversification then that’s where that can have the largest impact in a local economy.”

Beckner was asked by a Tiger Bay member what he thinks of the 11 constitutional amendments on the state ballot this year. They include an anti-abortion measure, an effort to allow public funding of religious institutions and several tax amendments. One of them, amendment four, would reduce the amount of money counties receive in property tax revenue. Beckner wouldn’t tell voters what to do at the ballot box, but did get a little annoyed with the state’s meddling.

“They either, one, they don’t understand or, two, they don’t care about the impact on the local level. So, my position has been let local government govern and take care of its own citizens and Tallahassee, stay out of our business.”

Margaret Iuculano did not respond to interview requests by deadline. According to the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections website, Beckner has out-raised his opponent $275,000 to $70,000 so far. The general election is on November 6.

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