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Democrats have an opportunity to flip the seat.

Down Ballot - Tampa Bay

Harry Cohen to take on Scott Levinson for Hillsborough County Commission after primary win

Democrats have an opportunity to flip the seat.

Harry Cohen will take on Scott Levinson in the November General Election for the Hillsborough County Commission District 1 seat. 

Cohen defeated opponent Jen McDonald with 54.29% of the Democratic vote. Levinson took the Republican nomination with 55.6% of the vote against primary challenger Tony Morejon.

Levinson’s victory comes as a surprise since Morejon led the Republican primary in fundraising and as a county insider.

Cohen posted a statement via Facebook Tuesday night congratulating McDonald for a clean race and expressing excitement for the win.

“I just received a gracious phone call from Jen McDonald and I congratulated her on a clean and substantive race,” Cohen wrote. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the voters of Hillsborough County for their confidence in me and I want to thank everyone who supported my campaign from the bottom of my heart.”

The victory could prove vital for Democrats. As a fundraising stand-out, Cohen could alter the commission’s partisan makeup.

The District 1 seat opened after current Republican Commissioner Sandy Murman faced 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 Cohen 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.

Cohen — the race’s front-runner in financials and endorsements — is a former Tampa City Council member and has broad name recognition after an unsuccessful run for Mayor last year. Levinson is a former small business owner who has served as executive director of the Tampa Bay Youth Football League since 2015.

Cohen has raised the most among all the candidates, nearly $139,000 as of Thursday. He has spent more than $113,000 leaving him with about $26,000 to carry over. Levinson will face an uphill battle against Cohen, heading into the general election with less than $1,700.

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. There are also about 67,000 no-party-affiliated or third party voters.

Cohen 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. Both Cohen and Levinson were endorsed by the Tampa Bay Times.

This issue is a big one 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 been a problem.

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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