Harry Cohen leads Democrats in battle to gain a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission
Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin gives his closing remarks on his bill HB 1, known as the "anti-riot bill" during a House session before the bill passed at the Capitol.

If a Democrat wins, the party could enjoy a 5-2 majority.

Democratic stand-out Harry Cohen could alter the Hillsborough County Commission partisan makeup if he flips District 1 blue — but, he’ll have to beat his primary challenger first.

Cohen, the race’s front-runner in financials and endorsements, is running against Democrat Jen McDonald in Tuesday’s primary.

McDonald is a small business owner and South Tampa Chamber of Commerce board member. Cohen is a former Tampa City Council member and has broad name recognition after a valiant, but unsuccessful run for Mayor.

The winner will take on one of two Republicans running for the seat, Tony Morejon or Scott Levinson.

The District 1 seat is open with current Republican Commissioner Sandy Murman facing term limits. Murman is now seeking the District 6 seat, running against fellow Commissioner and Democratic incumbent Pat Kemp in the general election.

Murman’s departure is an opportunity for Democrats to flip the District 1 seat. If Kemp keeps her seat and the Democratic nominee wins the general election, Democrats would have a 5-2 majority. They currently have a 4-3 majority. Both races are crucial for Democrats. If they lose both, Republicans would regain a majority on the dais.

Democrats have a slight edge in District 1 with about 78,700 registered Democrats and 75,600 Republicans, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. The area also has about 67,000 no-party-affiliated or third party voters, but they won’t be able to cast a ballot in the primary. 

The eventual Democratic nominee’s chances look good heading into the general election.

Cohen has raised the most among all the candidates, with $135,692 raised to date. He has spent $106,284, leaving him with more than $29,000 to carry over, far more than his Democratic rival or either Republican candidate.

McDonald would start the general election race with a little over $9,400, putting her on firm financial footing against Levinson, who, if victorious Tuesday, would head into the general election with less than $1,700, and in competitive position with Morejon who retains about $11,800.

The Republican primary could be tight. While Levinson earned an endorsement from the Tampa Bay Times, Morejon is a county insider, having worked as the county’s community affairs liaison since 1994. 

Cohen, meanwhile, has also snagged significant endorsements, including from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who credits her endorsement to Cohen’s platform addressing climate change and sea level rise.

This issue is a big on for the District, which covers the county’s southwest coastline, and includes South Tampa, Davis Islands, MacDill Airforce Base and a portion of downtown Tampa where flooding has already been a problem.

Kelly Hayes

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 [email protected]


2 comments

  • Kelso Tanner

    August 16, 2020 at 5:50 pm

    Tony Morejon is endorsed by both the Hillsborough and Tampa Firefighters.

  • Jeff King

    August 17, 2020 at 5:38 am

    Harry is a crook.

Comments are closed.


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