Joe Henderson: Democrat Cindy Stuart chasing GOP votes isn’t so strange

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An open primary means someone's got to go after the GOP vote.

More than a few Democratic eyebrows were raised recently when Cindy Stuart began courting Republican voters in the race for Hillsborough Clerk of Courts.

Stuart’s campaign is working with a GOP-funded PAC to send mailers to Hillsborough’s Republican voters. Veteran political writer William March of the Tampa Bay Times phrased it this way: Politics makes strange bedfellows.


But Stuart, who is leaving the Hillsborough School Board after two terms, tells it a different way.

“It’s an open primary. I don’t understand why anyone thinks that’s an unusual strategy. It’s the first one we’ve had in this county in a long time,” she told Florida Politics.

“Most people who know me know I’m a Democrat, but they also know I’m a moderate Democrat. I talk to both sides. I can come to the table and have a commonsense conversation about what’s best for our community.”

Stuart’s Democratic opponent in the Aug. 18 primary is former County Commissioner Kevin Beckner.

Beckner has raised $158,000 compared to Stuart’s $54,000. She didn’t enter the race until late April, so Beckner had a big head start. He has strong support among Hillsborough progressives and has tried to make amends for his messy campaign four years ago for this same position.

He said then that incumbent Pat Frank was planning to retire and had given him her blessing. Frank said she had done no such thing, and in a contentious race Beckner made Frank’s work record and age, which was 86 at the time, an issue.

It became a rallying cry for Frank’s many supporters. She crushed him in the race.

This time, Beckner has gone out of his way to praise Frank – who really is retiring now after 16 years in the Clerk’s chair. He has said he wants to build on her legacy and has run a largely non-confrontational campaign.

Frank has said she forgives Beckner but hasn’t forgotten what happened.

She also endorsed Stuart.

So did County Commission Chairman Les Miller, who initially planned to run for the office but withdrew because of health reasons. Addison Davis, Hillsborough’s new school Superintendent Addison Davis and former Superintendent Jeff Eakins also back Stuart.

Beckner, though, has a long list of endorsements too, many of which came before Stuart got in the race. His backers include former Florida CFO Alex Sink, state Sen. Darryl Rouson, and former School Board member Doretha Edgecomb.

Stuart, meanwhile, began to cast to wider net for votes in what most expect to be a close race.

There are more than 346,000 registered Democrats in Hillsborough compared to about 281,000 Republicans. Another 264,000 are not registered with either party, but they can vote in this open primary.

“For people to say I’m chasing Republican votes, I don’t understand that,” Stuart said. “When this became an open primary, anyone who wouldn’t go hard after Republican voters and independent voters would be crazy.

“And honestly when it’s a constitutional position you shouldn’t just serve one party. It’s the same thing on the School Board. There aren’t red children and blue children. You serve all children. It’s the same thing here.”

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.


  • Christopher Allyn

    August 11, 2020 at 6:27 am

    She’s getting Dark money from Charter School Associates. She put out an attack mailer with right out lies. She’s putting out endorsements like La Gaceta but neither disclose the editor Mantiega is running her political campaign mail. See her latest financial report. She was clueless about the school board’s 50 million dollar reserve fund lost. Said at the meeting she would have fired Jeff Eakins. She isn’t qualified for the job. Not one organization has endorsed her. Not one community activist or citizen has endorsed her. She doesn’t even have the support of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association the just endorsed Kevin Beckner this week.

  • MaryEllen Schimer

    August 11, 2020 at 9:12 am

    Female + Democrat = Pro – Abortion that’s a hard No!

Comments are closed.


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