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Transit activist Brian Willis files for Hillsborough County District 6 race

Tampa lawyer Brian Willis has made it official: He’s running for the Democratic nomination for Hillsborough County commissioner in the countywide District 6 seat that term-limited Kevin Beckner leaves in 2016.

“I have always been dedicated to making Hillsborough a better place to live, ” Willis said in a prepared statement released early Monday afternoon. “Turning talk into action on transportation will be a key part of my campaign, but transportation is just one piece of the puzzle. I want new ideas and action on vital issues like supporting the first responders that keep our community safe, and keeping Hillsborough special by protecting our diverse neighborhoods, rural lands, and beautiful waterways.”

Willis, 31, has been a community-minded activist for years, most prominent in arguing for transit options like light-rail in Hillsborough County. Along with a few other friends, Willis was a co-founder of Connect Tampa Bay, the fuse that ignited Hillsborough County officials (led by Mark Sharpe) to again enter the public conversation about transit options, years after the Moving Hillsborough Forward transit tax was defeated in 2010.

“It’s going to be fun,” Willis told Florida Politics in a brief interview Monday afternoon.

Willis is the first official candidate to enter the District 6 race, but there will be plenty more to follow.

Pat Kemp, who narrowly lost the countywide District 7 race to Al Higginbotham this past fall, has said she’s running for the Democratic nod for the District 6 race, but has yet to file and was unavailable for comment Monday. National Democratic committeeman Alan Clendenin has also said that he’s seriously considering running in District 6.

Among the names being floated on the Republican side include former County Commissioners Jim Norman and Ronda Storms. Norman is reportedly all but officially in the race.

“It’s a huge county and that’s why you get in early,” said Willis, an attorney with the downtown Tampa law firm of Shumaker Loop & Kendrick, where he represents clients in real estate and business issues. He said that like most people, he’s a working stiff. He’ll be meeting and greeting folks during the coming next year after working hours in the evening and on weekends. “It’s going to be putting miles in the car, shaking hands and being everywhere I possibly can,” he said.

The Carrollwood native has begun his campaign in grand style, with a new website, and this freshly produced 2 1/2-minute video:

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at

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