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2 Republicans contemplate run for County Commission

GOP officials are pleased with the announcement, saying it is important that a seat on the commission go to a New Tampa resident.

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


TAMPA PALMS -- The 2002 election might seem far away, but candidates for County Commission are already lining up in New Tampa.

Jim Davison and Ken Hagan Jr. told members of the New Tampa Republican Club on Tuesday that they may run for the District 2 seat currently held by Jim Norman. Davison said he is definitely running. Hagan said he is seriously considering it.

The news came as welcome relief to club members who want a strong local candidate on the Nov. 5, 2002, ballot. About three-quarters of New Tampa voters are Republicans.

"We are vitally concerned that we should have a member on the County Commission who lives in New Tampa and truly represents New Tampa," said Dick Ray, outgoing club president.

The unofficial candidates have each lived in New Tampa for eight years. Davison lives in Hunter's Green; Hagan recently moved to Cross Creek from Tampa Palms. Neither has run for public office before.

Davison said he decided to run to give New Tampa a greater voice in countywide issues, particularly transportation. He has been a staunch proponent of road projects to reduce congestion on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and was the first chairman of the New Tampa Transportation Task Force.

"We've come to the conclusion that if we don't get a county commissioner . . . we're not going to get anything done," he said.

A native of Tampa, Hagan, 33, said he wants to help improve transportation and recreational opportunities in his community. He works in business development for the accounting firm of KPMG in downtown Tampa and attended the University of Florida on a baseball scholarship. Commissioner Norman was his Little League coach.

"I love this city," Hagan said. "I think I could bring a lot to the table."

Hagan's decision to run will depend on whether Carrollwood is included in the revised boundaries for District 2, which will be determined this summer. Hagan grew up in Carrollwood and would have many supporters from the area if he ran for public office, he said.

Davison, 46, unofficially announced his candidacy after learning that Denise Layne and Denise Lasher of Lutz are considering a bid, he said. Layne is president of Lutz Civic Association and a Sierra Club leader. Lasher is a member of the Hillsborough County Republican executive committee and the county commission's citizen advisory board. "I didn't want to be left behind," said Davison, medical director of the emergency room at South Bay Hospital in Sun City Center. "I didn't want to give them a head start."

Only one person, Democrat Michelle Henry of Temple Terrace, has filed paperwork declaring her candidacy. Norman cannot run again for District 2 because of term limits, but he can seek an at-large seat.

New Tampa leaders say residents need to get behind a local candidate and push for his or her election.

"Regardless of party affiliation, we have to back a candidate who will do the job for the area," said Don Nevins, head of the New Tampa Transportation Task Force.

Nevins, Davison and other residents are forming a nonpartisan group to encourage more people to vote. New Tampa residents tend to vote in the general election, but skip the local elections.

"If we don't get the vote out, it doesn't matter who runs out here," Davison said.

In other business Tuesday, the New Tampa Republican Club elected new officers. They are Brad Swanson, president; Curtis Stokes, vice president; Jerry Bever, treasurer; and Bill Chamberlin, secretary.

Ray decided not to seek a third term, but said he would continue to stay active in club activities and fund-raisers. The club's next meeting is in September, and it may have a membership drive this summer.

- Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 226-3463.

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