Joe Henderson: A sign of trouble in Hillsborough Property Appraiser race?

A D.C. Goutoufas' campaign sign implies he's the incumbent Property Appraiser. He's not.

The last two Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s races haven’t had much drama, and this one seemed headed in the same direction. But things got at least a little spicy after Nereia Cormier drove along Lois Avenue in Tampa recently and noticed something amiss.

It centered around a large number of yard signs for D.C. Goutoufas, a Republican running for Property Appraiser. Cormier helped run current Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez‘s successful campaign in 2012.

“Having a former campaign eye, I noticed the sign didn’t have a ‘for’ on it,” she said. “He’s not the incumbent, so by state law, his signs have to say he’s running ‘for’ the office. I couldn’t unsee that.”

So, Cormier, who is no longer associated with the Henriquez campaign, filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission. She alleges Goutoufas violated state law that says non-incumbent candidates “must include the word ‘for’ between the candidate’s name and the office for which the candidate is running, in order that incumbency is not implied.”

In her filing, Cormier called Goutoufas’ signs a “clear violation of this statute.”

Henriquez said, “My opponent has unethically represented himself” and called for Goutoufas to remove the signs.

“He needs to fix this,” Henriquez said. “Do the right thing, not just what you can get away with. Follow the law. I am the Property Appraiser and I’m a stickler for doing the right thing.

“Those signs are illegal. They need to come down. They imply incumbency and a skill set he doesn’t have.”

Tim Northcutt, the Goutoufas campaign manager, said the signs are legal. He focused on small print at the bottom of the main image. It reads: Paid for by D.C. Goutoufas Republican candidate for Hillsborough County Property Appraiser.

“Maybe it’s in small print, but it’s on the sign,” Northcutt said. “If they want to come to us on that issue, I’m happy to have that.”

A check of the Facebook page supporting Goutoufas showed a lot of signs.

Goutoufas has no known background in property appraising.

He originally intended to run for Hillsborough’s Clerk of the Circuit Court but switched gears to oppose Henriquez shortly before the filing deadline.

Judging by history, Goutoufas has an uphill climb,

Henriquez, a former member of the Florida House, received 57% of the vote in 2016. He coasted to a 10-point win in his first try for the office in 2012.

It’s questionable whether the Commission in Tallahassee will act on the complaint before the Nov. 3 election. That didn’t matter to Cormier, though, because rules are rules.

“I think it’s very important, especially these days, to make sure the information out there is accurate,” she said. “That’s why I did this.”

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.


  • Jim Cooper

    September 2, 2020 at 6:58 pm

    Seems a bit unethical when the disclaimer does not meet the requirements. I would think a candidate running against an encumbant would be required to add “for” to the signs.

    • Tim Northcutt

      September 4, 2020 at 11:20 pm

      The reason why it isn’t on there is because we wanted to make the stars, which signify D.C.’s father, grandfather and his Godfather when he was baptized, and the words Property Appraiser bigger on the sign.

      There was nothing nefarious about it and Bob is just grandstanding over something trivial when we should be focusing on the issues.

      Every property owner in Hillsborough County got their TRIM notices last week, with an increase…again…in the Ad Valorem.

      Trust me…they KNOW who is raising their taxes every year because his name has been on it for years now and it’s not D.C. Goutoufas who is raising it.

      We’ll wait until we hear from the Election Commission and discuss it with them, but the word “for” is on the signs in the disclaimer as noted in the article.

      Ironically, many other campaign signs, including ones printed by Bob’s wife as the Campaign Manager for another campaign, do NOT have the word “For” prominently displayed and that candidate isn’t an incumbent, either.

      Will he or one of his minions file an Ethics Complaint in that case, too?

      After all, Bob said he is such a “stickler when it comes to doing the right thing.”

      As for other points in the article, D.C. Goutoufas was a banker and branch manager for nearly two decades.

      He has vast experience in both appraising and assessing property when he financed both residential and commercial mortgages…more experience than a football coach had when he first sought the office.

      We will comply with whatever the Election Commission rules on this issue, but the signs will stay as is for now because we believe they are compliant.

      But without a formal notice stating any violations, we do not know what, if anything, would need to be corrected.

    • Tim Northcutt

      September 4, 2020 at 11:29 pm

      I posted specifics on this in Facebook below this article.

      I have not received any form of notice from the Election Commission outlining what, if anything, is illegal.

      I’ll see what the the Election Commission says regarding this issue and if required, we will comply, but changing it simply because our opponent doesn’t like it won’t happen.

      For more details, please read my reply below the Facebook article.

Comments are closed.


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