Carlos López-Cantera backs Steve Cona for Hillsborough School Board

Steve Cona

Steve Cona’s campaign for a seat on the Hillsborough County School board got a boost Monday by way of an endorsement from Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera.

“Steve’s passion for education and the students of Hillsborough County is known statewide, and I’m proud to endorse him for the school board, District 1 seat,” López-Cantera said. “I’ve been impressed with his work to popularize both college and career tracks for students through the creation of Build Tampa Bay, and look forward to seeing him bring his expertise and know-how to improve Hillsborough County Public Schools for the next generation.”

Cona, the president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, is also an executive officer at Build Tampa Bay, a foundation established to encourage high school students to explore careers in the construction industry.

“I’m humbled to receive an endorsement from one of Florida’s most esteemed leaders,” Cona said. “As a father of two kids, both in the public school system, I have seen the work that needs to be done in our school district. We can always do more to ensure our students go from learners to earners and look forward to working with leaders like the Lieutenant Governor to improve our local public schools.”

Though School Board races are nonpartisan, Cona is a Republican who once ran for Hillsborough County Commission. His two major endorsements so far, however, have shown an ability to draw support from both sides of the political spectrum — López-Cantera, a Republican, follows Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat, in backing the businessman’s bid.

Cona faces Gil Machin and William Person in the race for District 1, which will be on the 2018 ballot due to current School Board member Susan Valdes opting to run for House District 62 rather than finish out her term.

Person, a retired school district administrator, moved his campaign over from the District 6 race. He ran for the District 1 seat two years ago and came within 267 votes of defeating Valdes. Machin, a retired county social services administrator, appears to be a first-time candidate.

Thus far, Cona is the best-funded of the three candidates with more than $61,000 in receipts and $52,573 in the bank on July 27. Person has the second-best tally, with nearly $46,000 raised and $13,598 in his account, followed by Machin with $13,750 raised and $10,246 at the ready.

District 1 covers northwestern Hillsborough, including part of Tampa and the communities of Egypt Lake, Keystone, Leto, Town ‘n’ Country and Westchase. The winner of the nonpartisan election will serve out the remainder of Valdes’ term, which runs through 2020.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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