Joe Henderson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 41

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

Joe Henderson: State Democrats try a new tactic: fighting back

For decades, Republican candidates have been successful in Florida by rarely deviating from a script that labels Democrats as big-spenders, soft on crime, anti-business and anti-gun.

When confronted by these aggressive tactics, Dems generally answered with flustered babble that, roughly translated, was basically “that’s not nice.”

This campaign has been different though. Instead of trying to stay above the fray or pretending no one will be silly enough to listen to those doddering old Republicans, Democrats have saddled up.

Sure, top candidates trying to win a primary have criticized each other along the trail. But their public media is all about making the case to beat Republicans.

I guess two terms of Rick Scott in the Governor’s mansion and total control of the Legislature by Republicans convinced them that it was time to show voters why they would be better.

They have been hitting back hard on Republicans and generally have stayed focused on their main themes: education, health care, standing up to the NRA and overall gun reform, and transportation.

Take the in-your-face mailer from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene, the one that has gotten NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer in such a twist. It’s the mailer that shows cutouts of children being used as target practice at a school slaughter.

In case anyone didn’t get the message, the cutouts are emblazoned with the NRA logo (color Hammer not pleased) and the words AR Practice.  

“As a mother, grandmother and a proud NRA member for decades, I find his mailer repulsive,” Hammer told the Tampa Bay Times in an email.

“It is clear that Jeff Green is bankrupt of ideas and he has to resort to these dumb ideas to try and get attention for himself and his campaign. When people can’t win on fact, they have to resort to cheap stunts like this.”

I think Greene wins the argument there, though, because what’s really repulsive is having 17 people shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And what made it worse was how Hammer and NRA hard-liners tried to stop the even tepid revisions to Florida’s gun laws in the aftermath of that slaughter.

I don’t think a major Democratic candidate would have responded that way four, eight, or 12 years ago. They would have been wary of NRA backlash and decided that, no, let’s just ease on down that road.

That’s one reason they lose.

You see a different attitude now though.

Gwen Graham has been sharply focused with her points that 20 years of total Republican rule in Tallahassee is enough. When she talks about all the things she believes the common folks in the state have lost because of GOP policies, I think her punch line “we’re gonna take it back” is resonating.

Philip Levine has been hammering hard for better pay for teachers. Other Democrats have been joining in that chorus.

It has even filtered down to the local level.

After serving as House Minority Leader, Janet Cruz of Tampa changed her mind about running for the Hillsborough County Commission to challenge Republican Dana Young in SD 18.

Her motivation was Young’s absence from the Senate floor when the vote was being taken in March on an assault weapons ban. Young, a staunch gun supporter, said she was attending to other business and later recorded her votes.

Cruz has called her a coward for not being on the floor during the emotionally charged debate.

Polls show their race could be a squeaker.

It’s clear Democrats believe the issues are on their side this time and they are charging hard. No matter which candidates emerge from the Aug. 28 primary, in most races he or she will find the battle lines already drawn against a Republican opponent.

That will save them time and money trying to define their opponent.

It’s an unusual position for Democrats to be in, and it’s too early to say it will be successful. But if they lose this time, at least it will be on the issues and not because they just laid down and took a beating.

Joe Henderson: Judge rules for college voting rights over incumbent privilege

Voting in Florida is a right, not a privilege.

And since life today doesn’t run at the same pace as it did back when Ozzie met Harriett (look it up, kids), the government should make it as easy as possible for citizens to exercise that right.

So yes, it was, as League of Women Voters of Florida President Patricia Brigham noted in the following statement: “ … truly a victory for the citizens of Florida” Tuesday when U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted a preliminary injunction against the state’s prohibition on early voting at college and university campuses.

Why would the state try to prohibit early voting in such locations?

Oh, let’s take a wild guess.

College students generally skew toward more progressive ideas and candidates.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who needs every vote he can get to unseat Democrat Bill Nelson in the race for the U.S. Senate, is not progressive.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam are not progressive.

Ergo, logic. 101 would tell us that Republican candidates will lose votes if students can cast early ballots at the place where they go to school and spend most of their time.

It’s not always easy for them to track down a regular polling place, so that’s where the GOP made its stand.


As the judge noted in his ruling, “This Court can conceive of fewer ham-handed efforts to abridge the youth vote than Defendant’s affirmative prohibition of on-campus early voting.”

The hammy hand began its subterfuge in 2014 when Secretary of State Ken Detzner ruled that a building the University of Florida planned to use as an early-voting site didn’t meet guidelines to qualify as a polling place. That led to what Walker called “a stark pattern of discrimination” designed to suppress on-campus voting.

If the injunction becomes permanent, it has the potential to tip statewide elections. Scott twice won the Governor’s race by about 1 percent.

“Across Florida, more than 1.1 million young men and women were enrolled in institutions of higher learning in 2016; nearly 830,000 were enrolled at public colleges or universities,” Walker wrote.

“Almost 107,000 staff members worked at these public institutions. Put another way, the number of people who live and work on Florida’s public college and university campuses is greater than the population of Jacksonville, Florida — or the populations of North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.”

Trying to hold down the turnout from voters likely to support the other candidate is becoming a pattern for Tallahassee Republicans.

In 2011, for instance, Republicans cut the number of early voting days in the state from 14 to eight and eliminated the option of casting a ballot on the final Sunday before Election Day. Black voters were particularly affected because that final Sunday has become known as “Souls to the Polls” in their churches.

Under withering pressure, Scott relented and signed a law in 2013, restoring much of what had been taken away.

The judge did it for him this time, and it has big implications in a year where students, in general, are registering to vote in large numbers, likely as a response to the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

It strains credibility to suggest the state’s resistance to on-campus early voting has nothing to with what kind of building that might be used as a polling place. It has everything to do with the fear young people might get motivated in a way that might not bode well for the incumbents.

Well, as I’ve said before, I’m not a lawyer.

In this case, though, I think it’s possible to succinctly summarize what the judge felt about the state’s argument: Seriously?

And here’s the knockout punch: Students rights proved more important than incumbents’ privilege.

Joe Henderson: Stand Your Ground worked just like lawmakers intended

In Florida now, the rule of law now seems to be shoot first, justify later.

So, what happened to Markeis McGlockton last week at a Circle A convenience store in Clearwater is exactly lawmakers had in mind when they widened the range of what’s permissible under Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Surely you have seen the video by now. It made national news. McGlockton was gunned down in plain sight after an argument between Michael Drejka and McGlockton’s girlfriend, Britany Jacobs, escalated over whether the van she was in should have been parked in a handicapped spot (it shouldn’t have).

McGlockton, while unarmed, wasn’t blameless.

He charged and then shoved Drejka with what Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri termed “great force.”

“I mean this is a violent push, this isn’t just a push or a shove, this is violent, and he slammed him (Drejka) to the ground,” Gualtieri said at a news conference.

Still on the ground, Dreika pulled a gun, fired, and now McGlockton is dead – killed in front of his 5-year-old son.

“Stand your ground” worked just the way the framers of that law intended.

How vindicated they must have felt when Gualtieri said he couldn’t arrest the shooter because of the law, which was amended in 2017 by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott to make prosecutors prove Drejka didn’t feel threatened.

I’ll say again – prosecutors must prove he DIDN’T feel threatened.


The state attorney’s office will do its own investigation to decide if it agrees with Gualtieri’s decision. I’m not a lawyer, but it will be hard to say the Sheriff is wrong under the existing law.

“The reason why it makes (the shooting) justified, and within the framework of “stand your ground” is because of what Markeis did (with the shove),” Gualtieri said.


This is what the NRA rubber-stamps in the Florida Legislature have unleashed. They have legalized people’s worst impulses in moments of stress – even if evidence later suggests those impulses should have been controlled. Under the law, they don’t have to be.

“I’m a big believer in this adage that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This case may be an example of that. Nonetheless, we don’t build it, we just sail it. What I mean by that is: I don’t make the law, I enforce the law,” Gualtieri said.

“And I have to apply the facts of every situation to the law, as the Legislature has passed it, and as the Governor has signed bills enacting it. And the law in the state of Florida today is that people have a right to stand their ground, and have a right to defend themselves when they believe that they are in harm.”

Surveillance video appears to show McGlockton backing up slightly after Drejka pulled his gun. Perhaps a cooler head would have let it go at that, but Drejka made a choice in the heat of the moment to fire his weapon.

That is not in dispute.

How can anyone prove Drejka didn’t believe McGlockton was going to come after him again – no matter what the video suggests?

“Nowhere else is there anything like this in criminal law, where somebody asserts something, and the burden then shifts to the other person,” Gualtieri said.

“So, the law is changed dramatically because you’ve got a situation here where ‘stand your ground’ allows for a subjective belief by the person that they are in harm’s way, they are in fear.”

Just like the NRA wanted when it pressured Republicans to make that part of the law.

Even if McGlockton thought he was defending his girlfriend, he shouldn’t have shoved Drejka, or even touched him. Whatever happened to just saying, “Hey man, I’m sorry” and then getting into your car and driving off?

But he didn’t.

The bigger question is whether he should have died for that.

The answer is simple: This is Florida.

When it comes to guns and how people use them, that’s the answer to everything.

All For Transportation closer to goal in Hillsborough

Supporters of a drive to place a sales tax increase on the November ballot in Hillsborough County said Monday they planned to turn in about 10,000 additional signed petitions to the Supervisor of Elections.

That should move backers of the All For Transportation initiative within striking distance of the approximately 49,000 valid petitions they will need by Friday for the initiative to go forward to voters.

“We’ll have a little under 50,000 turned in,” said Tyler Hudson, chairman of All For Transportation. “We had a good weekend haul. We’re excited about what we’re seeing out there. There is a lot of grassroots enthusiasm.”

That represents a significant jump for the group, which had 19,346 valid signatures on file as of 5:20 p.m. Monday, with thousands more awaiting processing. Hudson said that approval number is low because volunteers have been concentrating on gathering signatures as opposed to delivering them to elections officials.

It is generally accepted that about 70 percent of petitions in such drives will be valid. Hudson said his group won’t take any chances.

“We want to get our total up as high as possible,” he said. “We’re confident we can do that. We’re not planning at showing up on 4:59 p.m. Friday with a bunch of petitions. We’re going to work with the Supervisor of Elections office as much as we can. We know they have a lot of things going on now.”

All For Transportation proposes letting voters choose to amend the county charter and allow a 1 percent sales tax increase to eight cents on every dollar spent. The tax would pay for a variety of transportation projects around the city and county.

Joe Henderson: April Griffin endorses Karen Perez for Hillsborough School Board

April Griffin says she has not changed her mind about leaving the Hillsborough County School Board after three terms that at times have been tumultuous, rancorous but never, ever dull.

“No looking back,” she said.

Even though she won’t be running for re-election this fall, Griffin wants her supporters to know she is throwing her full support behind Karen Perez, a late entry into the District 6 countywide race.

“I’m supporting her because, in my opinion, she is the most qualified candidate of the six (who are running),” Griffin said. “She is educated, smart, compassionate, strong, and she will fight for those kids like they were her own.

“She is a steady, focused person. But she is also a mama bear.”

Perez, a Democrat, ran in 2006 for State Representative but was beaten by Ed Homan 56-43 percent in the general election. She lists a background in clinical social work and mental health, which is another reason Griffin backs her.

“That is a vital issue in the schools today,” Griffin said. “One of the biggest obstacles kids face to success is the mental health issue. She will guide the policies that will help kids walk across the stage and graduate.”

It’s a six-way scrum in the Aug. 28 primary for a seat that could go a long way toward determining both the immediate and long-range future of the board and there probably is no clear-cut favorite.

Besides Perez, the candidates are Scott Hottenstein and Robert Pechacek, who are both teachers. Henry “Shake” Washington is a retired school administrator and former coach. Political consultant Kelso Tanner and student cafeteria manager Michell Smithey round out the field.

While Griffin was a lightning rod on many issues, most notably the firing of Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, she also was popular with voters. Even though she was specifically targeted for defeat in 2014 by Elia’s supporters, Griffin easily defeated Dipa Shah in the countywide race.

Opponents who haven’t gotten over the Elia firing likely see this as an opportunity to reshape the board.

Add to that the surprising decision by Susan Valdes, another Elia detractor, to leave the Board with two years left on her term to run for State Representative, and it raises speculation what direction a new-look Board might take after the November election.

The District still faces significant financial problems and an estimated $1 billion backlog in capital needs. A growing student population and the need for continued construction of new buildings are also issues facing the nation’s eighth-largest district.

At a recent meeting, Griffin sounded the alarm again about finances.

“We are at 2007 per-student funding levels in the year 2018,” she said. “That has got to be something that we scream from the mountaintops because at the end of the day we are trying to operate with less dollars while everything costs more. We’re in a perfect storm in the world of public education. And it’s not good.”

How the Board deals with that crisis after the November elections will be one of the most critically watched things in Hillsborough County.

It won’t be Griffin’s problem then, but she is hoping her endorsement of Karen Perez will help lead to a positive solution.

Joe Henderson: Alex Sink says Trump’s stumbles should help Gwen Graham, all Dems

Alex Sink understands high-stakes politics.

Sink, a Democrat, became the first woman to win a major-party nomination for Governor in 2010, but she narrowly lost to Rick Scott. Sink’s late husband, Bill McBride, also ran for the state’s top office in 2002 but lost to Jeb Bush.

Sink is also the only Democrat to win a Florida statewide election in this century when she beat Tom Lee in the race for Chief Financial Officer in 2006.

So, when she says she knows what Gwen Graham faces in her campaign to be Florida’s next Governor, it carries considerable weight.

“There is still the woman factor,” Sink said. “I don’t know if Florida will elect a woman to the highest office in the state because we never have. She has to get through a primary first. She has to look at those pockets of voters who would naturally be inclined to support her and make sure they turn out on Election Day.

“My advice for the primary would be to focus on her two or three strongest issues that appeal to voters, especially those who are concerned about the right of privacy and the right of a woman to control her own body.”

Sink endorsed Graham earlier this week, which wasn’t a surprise, since Ruth’s List, a group Sink helped found, endorsed Graham earlier this year. She is the only woman among the candidates in either major party.

Ruth’s List was formed, as its website says, to build “ … a progressive Florida by recruiting and assisting pro-choice Democratic women to successfully run for public office in Tallahassee, in county commissions, in city councils, and in other key positions around Florida.”

Winning the Governor’s mansion after 20 years of Republican control would be a major coup for that movement. But the main thing, Sink said, is for a Democrat to win.

“I’ve been, like most Democrats, looking at the overall field and I think any of our field of candidates would make a good Governor,” she said. “But I’ve known Gwen a long time, and she shares my values. I think she has the best chance of any of them to succeed.”

For any Democrat to succeed, turnout will be vital.

Sink lost her election to Scott by just 61,550 votes, which she blames in part because of lower-than-expected turnout in the Democratic stronghold on the lower east coast.

That might change in November, given the horror from the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and President Donald Trump’s shaky popularity and his stumbles this week at the summit meeting in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin.

“One of the things we have as Democrats, going off the last 48 hours (with Trump), oh my God,” she said. “If we can’t see what’s going on in the nation right now, then we’re pitiful. Period.”

Joe Henderson: Aakash Patel doesn’t lack confidence in run for County Commission

I started the phone conversation Tuesday afternoon with Aakash Patel by asking, “If you are elected to the Hillsborough County Commission…”

He interrupted.

“You mean when I’m elected,” he said.

The man may be a first-time political candidate, running as a conservative Republican for a countywide District 7 seat, but he is not going into this venture at anything less than full speed and full confidence.

He knows what he wants to emphasize as a commissioner and anyone who knows him understands this simple truth: He will not be out-worked.

He released his first TV ad Tuesday, a 30-second spot called “A Better Hillsborough.” It’s a slick, well-produced pitch on some of his major themes: fresh voices, education, transportation and jobs.

He said those are the things voters have stressed are important to them, so they are important to him.

“I was just out in Sun City Center for three hours in the broiling sun, knocking on doors,” he said. “People tell me they’re tired of the same old people running. They want new ideas. When I tell them I’m a small-business owner, they tell me that’s exactly what they’re looking for – someone who can provide business solutions.”

Patel is one of only two Republicans in the Aug. 28 primary. He has raised more than $364,000 so far compared to nearly $109,000 for his opponent, Todd Marks. If Patel wins the primary, in November he’ll face the winner of a Democratic scrum that currently has four candidates.

Patel doesn’t sound like the stereotypical Republican that has dominated Commission politics for years. For starters, he said the decision by the Commission to keep the “Go Hillsborough” transportation sales tax referendum off the ballot in 2016 was a mistake.

He called it a “botch of resources” and added that of all the issues facing the Commission, he believes “transportation is the biggest.”

He believes it’s important to address the kind of runaway, unplanned development that has turned much of east and south Hillsborough into a chock-a-block mix of big-box and convenience stores.

How does that happen?

“For some reason, some parts of government aren’t talking to other parts,” he said.

The Commission could also face decisions on funding for a new Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium. A plan was unveiled last week for $892 million, and team owner Stu Sternberg has said the team is unlikely to come up with even half of that cost.

Patel is a member of Rays 100, a local civic group dedicated to helping get the stadium built. But if that solution includes using tax money, Patel said to count him out.

“I want the Rays to stay here,” he said. “But I don’t think public dollars should be used. We want to see dedication from ownership on this.”

Would that position include standing against the use of tourist taxes to help pay for the stadium? That depends on what local tourism officials decide.

“My opinion is, they will have a hard time coming to a consensus on it,” he said.

If that is true, does he believe the business community and Rays ownership can figure a way to get the stadium built?

“Absolutely,” he said.

Joe Henderson: Has Donald Trump become liability for Florida GOP gubernatorial contenders?

I wonder if GOP gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis are feeling a little queasy.

It was a quite the global spectacle Monday, watching President Donald Trump all but genuflect to Russian “President” Vladimir Putin, but it had to be worse for Putnam and DeSantis right here in our little corner of the planet.

Both men have been unflagging in their bro-love for Trump in the lead-up to the Aug. 28 Republican primary. DeSantis has been saturating TV with ads trumpeting his endorsement by “the big man himself” while Putnam hasn’t let that little detail derail his undying allegiance to the “commander” in chief.

While that strategy may appeal to Trump’s true believers who turn out for the primary, it becomes problematic in the general election.

After the President’s inept performance Monday in his face-to-face with Putin was widely panned, even by many Republicans, close association with Trump, while always a risky election-year strategy, may be downright toxic now.

Florida voters generally approve of the president a little more than most, but it’s a stretch to think that number won’t go down after Trump sided with a dictator over his own intelligence reports regarding Russia’s covert attempt to influence the 2016 election.

That sets up a dilemma for DeSantis and Putnam.

Do they begin to distance themselves from “the big man himself” and risk the wrath of the almighty base? Or do they just pretend Monday never happened and hope so much other stuff will occur between now and November that undecided voters forget about Helsinki?

That’s not Putnam’s only problem, either.

The latest Gravis poll has him trailing DeSantis by six points. And now he may face a renewed backlash from the tweet that wouldn’t die That’s the one, almost a year ago, where he declared himself a “proud NRA sellout.”  

The Tampa Bay Times reported on a whistleblower lawsuit brought by a former supervisor at the Florida Department of Agriculture, which Putnam has headed for nearly eight years. The department is supposed to do background checks on people applying for concealed weapons permits.

The 2013 lawsuit, which was settled for $30,000, claims the supervisor, Xenia Bailey, was threatened with retaliation because office workers weren’t processing the permits quickly enough and failed to meet a daily quota. The lawsuit claimed Bailey was told she “worked for the NRA.”

Big ouch!

Putnam’s office, in a statement to the Times, denied all that.

Either way though, it’s not a good look for Putnam, who earlier faced embarrassing revelations that his department allowed 291 people to received concealed weapons permits because of a reviewing error.

Putnam once was presumed to be the GOP nominee and, by extension, Florida’s next Governor. And, this being Florida, that may yet come to pass. Or, DeSantis may be able to take advantage of Putnam’s struggles.

For victory in November to happen, though, both major Republican candidates have to ask themselves if continuing to defend some of the indefensible things Donald Trump does will cost them in the end.

Joe Henderson: Tampa transportation group makes petition push

Florida lawmakers seem to be convinced that any problem where the solution is a tax increase is a problem worth ignoring.

According to WalletHub, Florida is the ninth-lowest state for taxes. Since we rank third-highest in population, that means something has to give. Actually, a lot of things have been cast aside as either unimportant (Medicaid expansion, for instance), or at least underfunded (public education).

But few things are more glaring than Florida’s inadequate transportation system, and in Tampa, that problem is bad and getting worse. A 2016 study showed Tampa drivers spent more than 27 hours stuck in traffic that year, with a loss of $923 per driver.

That ranked 31st in the U.S. for worst congestion.

With projections that show about 600,000 new residents expected in Hillsborough County alone in the next 30 years, doing nothing is not an option.

That explains why we could be in for a showdown between an acute need for a better way to move people around, and the dug-in heels who have never met a tax they believe is worth paying.

A Hillsborough citizens group called All for Transportation has been out for several weeks trying to gain enough certified signatures on a petition to put a one-cent sales tax hike on the ballot this November. They need more than 48,000 signatures by July 27, and as now they are well short.

William March of the Tampa Bay Times reported Sunday that as of late last week, just 8,437 petitions were turned in to the Supervisor of Elections office — although Committee Chairman Tyler Hudson they have more than 12,000 others they haven’t yet submitted.

Hudson estimates the tax would generate $280 million next year, which would be divided among the Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit for more buses, and the city, county, Temple Terrace and Plant City for various transportation needs — things like road and bridge repairs, sidewalks, and so on.

There is so far no mention of rail.

Opponents have proved adept at beating these kinds of initiatives. A 2010 referendum that included light rail was trounced, and in 2016 the Republican-controlled County Commission wouldn’t even let a proposal called Go Hillsborough on the ballot.

Hudson’s initiative, backed by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, would be an end-run around the Commission by allowing voters to make this part of the county’s charter.

It won’t be easy.

Hillsborough public schools have also floated the idea of going after a sales-tax referendum to help pay for more than $1 billion in current capital needs along with the need to build more schools and hire more teachers to keep up.

School funding, of course, will be a major campaign issue this fall in the Governor’s race, so it’s possible for school officials to hope/pray that they get some relief from Tallahassee after years of being a political chew toy.

A new $892 million stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays will not be a major election issue, but the team has already made it clear that it will not pay anywhere close to the full cost of the project.

Backers will concentrate on cobbling enough tourist tax and other outside revenue streams that don’t hit local residents, but you know how that goes. Hearing the word “tax” too many times, no matter the source, can have a negative impact on convincing locals to dig deeper.

But there is a reason to believe local commuters have enough of gridlock and don’t see a way to improve their lives by simply building more roads. That’s the best thing this potential referendum has going.

First, though, they have to round up about 28,000 more signatures in a short amount of time. You’ll probably see volunteers out around the area — assuming they can get through the traffic to their destinations.

Joe Henderson: Ken Hagan’s likely pitch for Rays stadium? It’s an investment

Perhaps no politician in Hillsborough County has been more identified with the effort to build a stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays than Ken Hagan.

The veteran County Commissioner was key in trying to convince the Rays that Ybor City was the right place to put a stadium. What he does behind the scenes could decide whether the proposed $892 million ballpark is ever built.

His absence at Tuesday’s pep rally/stadium unveiling at the Italian Club in Ybor was conspicuous. There certainly were many other public figures on hand, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Commissioner Sandy Murman.

I called Hagan’s office Wednesday just to double-check that he wasn’t there – it was a crowded room – and it was confirmed. The aide said he had no idea why Hagan missed the party.

I also called Hagan as of this writing and haven’t received a ring back.

It’s an election year and Hagan, a Republican, is running in District 2.

While many politicians in this atmosphere would be trying to stay an arm’s length from a pro sports team wanting public cash for a stadium, I can’t imagine Hagan is too concerned about winning.

He has raised more than $475,000 compared to about $46,000 combined for his two opponents – Democrat Angela Birdsong and Republican Chris Paradies.

Among his contributors: Rays owner Stu Sternberg.

Hagan has been on the Commission since 2002, and most of that time he has been reliably pro-business and development.

And brother, this stadium definitely qualifies as both.

Hagan has often pledged that no tax dollars will be used for a stadium, but let’s be blunt: If that’s the case, it won’t be built.

Sternberg all but ensured that Wednesday when he told The Tampa Bay Times editorial board that while, yes, the team will pay more than the $150 million he initially pitched, “I also know it’s not going to be multiples.”

If there was any doubt what he meant, Sternberg emphasized, “I don’t envision it” when asked if the Rays share of the project would cover at least half the cost. He then said that could change, but how much?

Certainly not enough to expect there is any doubt Sternberg eventually will look Hagan in the eye and tell him just how much Hillsborough County should expect to pay if it wants this stadium built.

This is a good time to recall that in 2012, Hagan was the lead dog in originally offering about $15 million in taxpayer-backed incentives to lure Bass Pro Shops to Brandon. His argument was that the return on the project in future taxes would more than cover the amount of the original investment.

After public outcry, the package was reduced to about $6.5 million in infrastructure improvements – and Bass Pro came to Brandon.

But keep the original pitch in mind: It’s not a subsidy, it’s an investment. The project will generate more in return than it will cost taxpayers. That’s what Hagan argued then to help land Bass Pro.

I’ll bet it’s what he will argue now to land a bigger fish.

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