SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Finally, a winner: Mark Sharpe, Denis Layne and Joe Redner have all lost in previous elections.
TAMPA - Mark Sharpe came up short three times in the '90s in bids to become a congressman.
Two years ago, Denise Layne ran for the County Commission but lost to Ken Hagan.
Joe Redner has run for local office four times in the past 21 years, but always lost.
Come next Tuesday, one of these political also-rans will finally become a winner.
Question is, who will voters choose for the District 7 county commission seat left open when Pat Frank resigned to run for clerk of court?
There's Sharpe, the Republican Party favorite who supports lower impact fees and other business incentives to build a "strong economic engine" in Hillsborough County. He said his priority as commissioner would be luring new companies and businesses to the area, and helping the ones already here.
There's Layne, a Republican-turned-Democrat who lobbies for the Sierra Club and says she wants to overhaul the growth management process. She said her background in real estate, law, homebuilding, community activism and environmental conservation make her the strongest candidate.
And there's Redner, the multimillionaire businessman who's as well known for owning the Mons Venus strip club as he is for standing up to county commissioners and Tampa City Council members - in court, and in their meeting chambers.
Ever independent, he is running under no party affiliation, and list priorities of urban redevelopment and environmentally sound growth management. He touts his success as a high school dropout turned millionaire businessman as proof he can help steer the county to a better course.
The candidates agree on some things: All three cite future growth and associated issues (transportation, water, sprawl) as the biggest challenge facing the county commission.
"The goal of the county commission shouldn't be to create growth," Redner said. "But to manage it."
The three agree on a need to concentrate development more in the urban core and have a better working relationship with the city.
On other issues, the three aren't so close. Redner and Layne want to move forward with planning for a light rail mass transit system; Sharpe says the county can't afford such a thing and would be better off pursuing a new toll road for eastern Hillsborough and widening and improving major thoroughfares.
Layne also wants to offer enhancements and form partnerships that encourage residents to use existing services like HARTline.
Sharpe says impact fees should be lower in poor areas, but acknowledges those aren't the only things developers and companies look for when they consider calling Hillsborough home.
"What they're looking for is a climate conducive to small business," he said. "Good schools, good neighborhoods."
Redner opposes impact fee exemptions in their current state. He said they amount to "welfare" for developers that encourage construction in rural areas without suitable roads and schools.
"If the county wants to raise the tax base with new development," he said, "put it in the urban areas where you can build with density and really raise some money."
Layne said impact fee waivers and reductions can be helpful, but should be used to direct growth to urban areas with infrastructure is already in place.
Layne supports a living wage, but the recently failed proposal had too many loopholes, she said.
"But this thing isn't dead, we can bring it back."
Redner said he would have passed the proposal.
Sharpe said he'd rather focus on training people to get better-paying, higher-level jobs. He said the county should help more poor workers sign up for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit program, which provides up to $2,000 a year.
"The odds are 3-to-1 in someone's favor on election day," Layne said. "This time, one of us has got to win."
Commissioners approve a $2.9-billion budget, run the Environmental Protection Commission, approve local ordinances and decide zoning issues. The District 7 seat is elected countywide; the winner serves a two-year term. The job pays a projected $84,213.
MARK SHARPE , 44, was born at MacDill Air Force Base. Sharpe served as a naval intelligence officer between 1984 and 1991. He's now in the Naval Reserve, where he's an analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Sharpe graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor's degree in multinational business in 1983 and received a master's in strategic studies from the University of South Florida in 1991. He ran for Congress three times in the 1990s, losing twice to Sam Gibbons and once to Jim Davis. He's a development officer for the Cambridge School, a private K-12 school in Tampa. He is also a consultant for Custom Care Pharmacy. He lives with his wife, Stephanie, in Gray Gables. They have three children.
ASSETS: Home, mutual funds, bank account, retirement account. LIABILITIES: Mortgage, home equity loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: Salary from the Cambridge School, consulting fees, reserve salary. E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
DENISE LAYNE , 49, is a growth management lobbyist for the Sierra Club and owner of Paralegal Associates Inc., a paralegal firm she's owned for 15 years. She is also longtime president of the Lutz Civic Association. Over the years, she has worked as president of a home building company and has sold commercial real estate. When she was 19, she worked as a secretary at Sumter Correctional Institute. She grew up in Detroit and moved to Florida 30 years ago. She lives in Lutz with her husband Charlie. Her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren live in Melbourne. ASSETS: Stock, home, real estate investment, two cars
LIABILITIES: Bank loan, car. SOURCE OF INCOME: Paralegal business . WEB SITE: www.deniselayne.com
JOE REDNER , 64, is best known as owner of the Mons Venus strip club. But he is a successful businessman in other arenas, with a multimillion-dollar net worth. He owns Xtreme Total Health & Fitness in south Tampa and several properties, as well as a production company. A Tampa native who dropped out of high school at age 16, he ran unsuccessfully four previous times for local elected office. He was nominated for the 2004 Moral Courage Award, a county recognition of those who stand up to local government, in part because of his recent work creating a West Tampa park. For more than a decade, Redner has hosted Voice of Freedom , a live call-in talk show on public access television. ASSETS: Home, multiple investment properties, business investments, equipment, vehicles, computers. LIABILITIES: Loans, car. SOURCE OF INCOME: Proceeds from various investments, rental properties, and businesses including Mons Venus and Xtreme Total Health & Fitness; management fees. WEB SITE: votejoeredner.com