tampabay.com

Busy Storms backs out of debate

By JONNELLE MARTE
Published July 11, 2006


BRANDON - Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms says scheduling conflicts are keeping her from participating in a debate with candidates running for the state Senate.

Storms originally accepted an invitation from the St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9 to take part in a debate on Aug. 10, but had to back out when the commission scheduled a public hearing for the controversial Lake Hutto development project for the same time.

The Times offered Storms four alternate dates, but Storms said her agenda is packed with board meetings, public hearings and campaign events on those days.

"I cannot miss official commission duty to go engage in a debate," Storms said, adding that she already participated in several debates held by the Plant City Republican Women's Club, the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee and the Sun City Center Republican Club.

But Republican opponent Ray Young says this will be the candidates' first real debate.

"Certainly Ronda is a busy lady, and she has to balance her County Commission duties with that of being a Senate candidate," Young said. "It is unfortunate she won't be a part of our program."

Storms is stepping down from the County Commission in November to run for the Senate seat, which is being vacated by Senate President, Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

Storm's other Republican opponent, former state Rep. Sandy Murman, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Murman, Young and Democrat Stephen Gorham all plan on attending the debate., which takes place at 6 p.m. Aug. 10 at Riverview High School, 11311 Boyette Road. The public is invited to attend.

It will be moderated by Times political editor Adam Smith and Bay News 9 anchor Al Ruechel and airs Aug. 13 at noon on Bay News 9.

Jonnelle Marte can be reached at (813) 310-1145 or jmarte@sptimes.com.