Crowded ballot, lots of cash mark Hillsborough County Commission race to replace Les Miller
The Heat face an uphill battle against the Nuggets. Image via AP.

Five Democrats are on the ballot Tuesday for a seat Republicans stand little chance of claiming.

The race for Hillsborough County Commission’s District 3 seat is a crowded one — five Democrats are looking to secure the spot in the general election for the left-leaning district.

Although there are leading candidates, it’s still anyone’s game.

Former Tampa City Council member Thomas Scott has a big fundraising lead with $98,560 raised since the start of his campaign. However, Scott has spent $84,149, leaving him with $14,411.

Gwen Myers follows with $54,929 in contributions. Myers has spent about the same as Frank Reddick, both spending a little over $33,500, but Reddick raised about $5,000 less.

Rick Fernandez, a late entrant to the race, raised $40,727, and Sky White, raised $29,596. Fernandez has spent $28,660 and White has spent $19,335.

Fernandez caused a stir when he entered the race as the only non-Black candidate, as the seat has historically represented a predominately Black community. Community activists fear that if Fernandez is elected, there will be no Black member on the Hillsborough County Commission.

While that may pose problems for Fernandez, he has a lot of stature in the district that could make him viable. Fernandez has long been a leader on transportation and transit issues, including leading opposition to the controversial TBX projects, which later morphed into Tampa Bay Next. Fernandez supports increasing transit and limiting highway expansion. There’s a small, but mighty transit community that comes out in droves to turn out votes for pro-transit issues and candidates.

Scott, a local pastor, has a lot of name recognition in the area. He previously served on the County Commission from 1996 to 2006, and on the Tampa City Council from 2007 to 2011. In 2015, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Scott to the Elections Commission.  

Reddick also has local name recognition, previously serving on Tampa City Council in District 5. The two districts largely overlap and include downtown and east Tampa.

Myers is a civic activist and retired Hillsborough County official.

White, a nurse, brings support from the local progressive wing of Democrats.

The winner of the primary will take on Republican Maura Cruz Lanz in the November general election, though the Democrat would be favored.

The winner in November will replace current Commission Chair Les Miller, who was first elected in 2010. Miller, who has been a public servant in Florida for more than 50 years, is retiring.

The district, includes downtown Tampa, Ybor City, West Tampa and parts of Seminole Heights, some of the most liberal parts of the county.

The district is made up of about 94,990 Democrats and just 26,996 Republicans, according to the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections. Republicans stand little chance in the district. With just over 49,000 independent or third-party voters in the district, Republicans can’t even count on those votes to bridge the voter registration gap.

The donor class might recognize that. Lanz has struggled to keep up with Democrats in campaign cash.

She has so far raised just $16,646 and has less than half of that still on hand.

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]


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