Nancy Millan will head to the Nov. 3 General Election after defeating former Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin with 62% of the vote in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for Hillsborough County Tax Collector.
Those numbers reflect only mail ballots, but the lead is insurmountable even with Election Day ballots still to be counted.
Millan, a veteran executive in the office, will likely be the favorite come November where she faces Republican TK Mathew.
“I feel wonderful,” outgoing Tax Collector Doug Belden said. “I couldn’t be happier. She’s been in our office for many years and has done a fabulous job. She worked her way up. She has earned this.”
She’s out-raised Mathew so far with more than $186,000 in contributions as of Aug. 13 compared to Mathew’s nearly $103,000.
Though he enters the General Election cycle with the cash advantage after not facing a challenger in the Republican primary. Mathew spent just shy of $40,000 so far, leaving him with about $62,000 on hand. Millan retains about $45,000.
Millan also enters the next round of campaigning with support from her Republican boss, incumbent Doug Belden, which will no doubt be a boost.
The primary between Millan and April was at times a bit negative. Griffin, long a lightning rod in Hillsborough politics, has faced an onslaught of attacks in the race, most significantly over her own tax record.
Public records with the office she seeks is showing Griffin was delinquent for years on property taxes on a Tampa home she and her husband owned until this month.
She also faced heat in a Tampa Bay Times report documenting a political action committee her husband established to support her candidacy, which is funded mostly through a New York-based political committee fueled by dark money.
Repeated attacks against Griffin highlight what has become in recent years her Achilles heel. Griffin, as a School Board member, led the charge in 2015 to oust then-superintendent MaryEllen Elia, a move that cost Hillsborough taxpayers about $1 million to buy out Elia’s contract.
The issue saw Hillsborough’s establishment class rally behind Elia, and many of those supporters are clearly still salty, now rallying behind Griffin’s opponent.
As Florida Politics’ columnist Joe Henderson pointed out, Millan’s endorsement list reads like a who’s who of Tampa political might: former Mayor Bob Buckhorn, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, former Florida CFO Alex Sink, Former State Senator and USF President Betty Castor, state Sen. Janet Cruz, County Commissioner Les Miller, and longtime Hillsborough Clerk Pat Frank. The Tampa Bay Times, whose editorial board supported Elia, also endorsed Millan.
None of that counted Griffin out, though. She survived attacks before, garnering community support even as the political class vowed a takedown. When she ran for a third term on the School Board, Griffin won easily despite her enemies’ efforts to dethrone her. In all, she went undefeated in three countywide elections.
That winning streak ended Tuesday.
“I had a great team that believed in what we wanted to do,” Griffin told Florida Politics. “I am very disappointed tonight. I am sorry for our team and I’m sorry for the people who supported us.”