While the Hillsborough County Democratic Party continues to recruit candidates to run against four GOP incumbent county commissioners running again in 2018, they have yet to find someone to challenge Ken Hagan in the District 2 race.
The challenge is seemingly formidable.
The Carrollwood Republican is the longest-serving member of the Hillsborough Commission, with nearly 15 years in office. And he has raised an astronomical $429,835, enough with a full year left before the election to intimidate the most confident of would-be office holders.
Enter Chris Paradies.
The 57-year-old intellectual property attorney is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a degree in physics, a Ph.D. in materials science and a law degree summa cum laude at the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Touro Law Center in Long Island. He’s also a U.S. Army veteran and entrepreneur who serves as chairman of the board of director for the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, which operates the TEC Garage incubator, providing professional mentoring for entrepreneurs in the Tampa Bay region.
Paradies says the impetus for him to take on Hagan in a GOP primary initially stemmed from his unhappiness over the board reallocating funds for the Hillsborough Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2), a program designed to encourage the startup community where he served on the citizens’ advisory committee.
Paradies says Hagan is “known to be very good at raising money and a little vindictive,” but conversations with Republicans in the northern part of the county gave him the confidence to toss his hat in the ring.
“There isn’t a lot of love for Ken Hagan in District 2 and he hasn’t really been a fiscally conservative commissioner, and that district definitely is fiscally conservative, and they were very encouraging and said they could find the people to help the campaign cooperate without raising huge amounts of money.”
When asked what the basis of his claim that Hagan wasn’t fiscally conservative was, Paradies mentioned his support for the 2016 Go Hillsborough transportation effort, the 30-year, half-cent sales tax hike that ultimately failed to qualify for the ballot when the majority of commissioners voted to oppose it.
“He’s pushing for tax increases,” said Paradies. “He says he’s against light rail, but then waffles on it and says, ‘well if the mayor wants light rail he can choose light rail.’ So he wants to be on both sides of the issue, but he does want to raise taxes. That is not fiscally conservative.”
Paradies says he doesn’t believe that Hillsborough has the density need for a fixed guideway system, and says there needs to be more emphasis on improving the bus system (the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority recently reduced some routes because of a lack of sufficient funding).
Paradies also says that the BOCC needs to be more disciplined and respectful of the citizens when it comes to master plans for different parts of the county, something that he says Hagan has not been vigilant about.
“I think he has the strongest pro-development record, which is kind of reflected in the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s raised from developers in campaign contributors who support his voting record,” he adds.
Hagan voted this past summer to maintain a Confederate monument which dominated news headlines in Tampa. Paradies says he doesn’t have much of an opinion on the controversy.
“I’m a veteran, so I’m very sensitive to making sure that we’re not disrespecting our veterans regardless of what side of the civil war they happen to be on,” he said.
Among those Republicans excited about Paradies’ candidacy is Patriots 4 Trump President Terry Castro.
Paradies has lived in various parts of the country, but has called Hillsborough County his home (he lives in Keystone) since 2004.
Hagan is term-limited from his District 5 countywide seat next fall, but could get an additional four to eight more years on the board if he wins in District 2 next year. An aide to Hagan told Florida Politics that he did not want to wish to comment on this story.