NAACP leader might exit GOP

Published May 15, 2007

Hillsborough County NAACP head Curtis Stokes says he's considering changing his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

Stokes, who has made several unsuccessful runs for elected office, says he's disenchanted with Republicans at both the local and national levels.

Locally, he said, he was disappointed that Republican Hillsborough County Commissioners Brian Blair, Ken Hagan and Jim Norman supported a proclamation designating a Confederate Memorial Day, a measure that failed.

Nationally, Stokes said, he was disappointed that House Republicans voted against an NAACP-backed measure to add a U.S. representative from the District of Columbia to Congress. The district is 57 percent African-American. The measure passed last month, thanks to support from Democrats, Stokes said.

Stokes said he also disagrees with GOP members who oppose raising the minimum wage: "How can I in good faith continue to be Republican?"

Stokes is supporting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, and helped raise $2, 300 for Obama's campaign during a stop in Tampa last month.

"I had an opportunity to get up close and really absorb the energy that he exudes." Stokes said.

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Speaking of Obama, area supporters on Monday announced co-chairmen and committee chairmen for the senator's local campaign.

Onetime Tampa mayoral candidate Frank Sanchez, Obama's national finance chairman, is leading the effort.

Co-chairmen are real estate agent Juan Capin and Aaron Smith, who recently retired from the University of South Florida's School of Social Work and was a health care consultant to Hillary Clinton.

Other committee heads are Marie Weston, who ran the successful campaign of state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, and will head media; civil rights lawyer Charlie Burr; retired Hillsborough County Judge Don Evans; and Vivian Warren, a campaign manager for Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita. They will spearhead online efforts.

A regularly scheduled Tampa Bay Area O-Train supporters meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Sociedad La Union Marti Maceo, 1226 E Seventh Ave.

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Former Tampa City Council member Shawn Harrison is weighing his options for maintaining a public profile with hopes of holding public office again.

Harrison, who has said he would like to run for mayor in 2011, narrowly lost his bid for a citywide council seat in March to newcomer Mary Mulhern.

Now, he said, he's being courted by Gov. Charlie Crist as a possible appointee to the embattled Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority.

But Harrison said he'd rather serve on the newly created Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. Harrison said he likes the idea of being part of something new, and, he notes, because the authority represents a seven-county area, it has the potential to be the most powerful transportation authority in the state.