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Hillsborough County Tax Collector candidates talk attack ads, coronavirus response during heated forum

Things got heated between Hillsborough County Tax Collector candidates Nancy Millan and April Griffin during a Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum Friday afternoon when asked about recent attack ads.

The two Democratic candidates are running to replace Doug Belden, who is retiring from the position he has held since 1998. Whoever wins the Aug. 18 primary will be running against Republican candidate TK Matthew in November. 

At the online forum, Griffin was asked who was paying for the attack mailers against primary opponent Millan, since the mailers are coming from a corporation using Griffin’s address. 

Griffin responded saying she had been threatened by former Tax Collector Belden, and her husband decided to start a political action committee to respond. 

“My husband said, ‘That’s it, I’m done. I am not going to have him attacking my wife anymore,’” Griffin said at the meeting. “He went out, he started his own PAC, he’s doing his own thing with it. My campaign is talking about what we want to do. And I’m not involved with the PAC, but my husband is pretty much tired of his wife being threatened.”

The candidates also discussed how the Tax Collector Office should adjust to the coronavirus pandemic.

Griffin, a former School Board member, criticized the current handling of the situation by the office, a jab at Millan, a member of Belden’s senior staff. 

“We were on lockdown, but there were still issues that could have been dealt with in bringing the plan forward so that they were ready to hit the ground once the stay at home order was lifted,” Griffin said. 

Millan defended the office’s response.

“I will tell you this, these are challenging times and our office is no different than any other county office,” Millan said. “We had to deal with a pandemic, something that no one’s ever dealt with… Our employees and our customers’ well being and their health is very important, and we put that in the forefront.” 

The forum also hosted Hillsborough Clerk of Court candidates Kevin Beckner and Cindy Stuart, both Democrats facing off in a primary election. 

The Clerk candidates were also challenged with the question of COVID-19 adjustments, including how they plan to change the current jury duty system. 

Both candidates emphasized the need to increase the use of technology. 

“Obviously we’re going to have to change the way that we bring jury groups in. And I believe that there’s a way for us to use technology,” said Stuart, also a former school board member for Hillsborough County.

Beckner also touched on increasing efficiency for minority and disadvantaged groups. 

“There’ve been other jurisdictions, like Orlando, that have partnered with their transportation agency to provide vouchers, especially the people that don’t have transportation,” he said. “And so it’s a partnership that we’re able to use and to form that I think can help solve a lot of these, a lot of these issues.”

Written By

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at kelly@floridapolitics.com.

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