The primary race in Hillsborough that everyone can participate in

The Clerk of Court seat has been held since 2004 by longtime Hillsborough Democrat Pat Frank.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – If you’re one of the nearly 260,000 registered nonpartisan voters in Hillsborough County outside of the school board, there aren’t many interesting races to take part in the August 18 primaries.


What you need to know

  • 2 Democrats compete for the registrar

  • Republicans had no candidate in the race

  • Candidates will have to adapt, strategist says

  • More headlines for 2020 elections

But there is one exception.

The race that every registered voter in Hillsborough can weigh in with is the clerk of the lawsuit between Democrats Kevin Beckner and Cindy Stuart. The Republicans failed to enroll a candidate in the race, and there is no enrollment candidate to close it to non-democratic party voters.

(Another open primary race is in the Democratic House District 70 race, which includes parts of the counties of Manatee, Sarasota, Pinellas, and Hillsborough.)

Vic DiMaio, strategist for the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, says the campaigns for Stuart and Beckner should adapt to the clerk’s match.

“Now you have to appeal to independents, republicans, and now your whole strategy is changing,” he says.

Open primary elections are rare in Florida politics, as there is usually an enrollment candidate who submits an application late before the qualifying period, who then “closes” the primary for voters within that particular party.

“That’s a little quirk in Florida law that everyone cries and cries and complains about, but nobody does anything about it, because both parties – both democratic and republican – are using the loophole to get the primary write to be the primary for Republicans only or Democrats only, “says DiMaio.

In the case of the registrar’s race, it appeared possible to be a dynamic race in November. Veteran Republican Senator Tom Lee announced in late May that he would step out of his seat prematurely, with unrestrained speculation that he would take part in the clerk’s contest. He then turned back about 10 days later, saying he wouldn’t run to the seat, leaving Hillsborough Republicans with no candidate to compete with in November.

The chair has been occupied by Hillsborough Democrat Pat Frank since 2004.

Voters often say they don’t know exactly what the clerk does.

Franks responds to that investigation by saying that her office does not issue birth and / or death certificates, but “everything in between in terms of your life, we arrange,” she told Spectrum Bay News 9 on Monday. She says the two main functions of the office are keeping records and dealing with money.

Frank explained that the clerk has two separate constitutional duties: 1) county inspector, and 2) registrar, in this case Florida 12th Circuit Court (some circuit courts include more than one county, such as Florida 6th) Judicial Circuit , which includes the provinces of Pinellas and Pasco).

Like a number of other ‘constitutional’ offices, such as tax collector and real estate appraiser, the registrar does not appear to be very ideological, but is nevertheless considered a partisan office.

Two years ago, the then GOP-controlled Hillsborough County Commission voted to hold a referendum on holding the races for clerk, property appraiser, tax collector, sheriff, and election supervisor. The courts later declined that proposaland said it was unconstitutional.

Frank, a longtime Democrat who has served on the county commission and in the Florida House and Senate, says that ideology can sometimes play a role in the clerk’s office, such as when gay marriage in Florida became legal in 2015. however, five of the state’s 67 counties, in conservative northern Florida, those clerks announced they would Do not follow the law, citing their Christian beliefs.

“Well, I’m sorry, but in such situations you don’t take your religion to court,” says Frank. “You have to obey the law and do what is expected of you. And luckily some of those clerks changed their minds and some chose not to go for re-election, and that’s their choice, but some of those issues that are more biased than others. “

Open primaries are rare in Florida, but voters indicated they wanted the option decades ago.

In 1998, they adopted a constitutional amendment saying that if all candidates for office have no opposition in the general election, voters, regardless of their party participation, could vote in the primary elections. However, legislative proposals to implement the amendment introduced at the 1999 legislative session have never been adopted.

“And then the candidates were naturally put on the ballot papers to keep the primary closed,” said Steve Hough, the director of Florida Fair & Open Primaries. “And if you remember, that amendment was passed in 1998 at something from 63% -64%, when the threshold was then only 50%. (It was 64 percent.) This is something Florida voters have wanted for a long time, ”he says.

Florida Fair & Open Primaries is one of the groups advocating support for a constitutional amendment in November that would create a “top two” open primary system for primary elections for Florida state legislators, governor and cabinet.

During the 2018 Constitutional Review Commission process, an attempt to submit a proposal for a constitutional amendment to close the loophole described in the law failed to get the votes needed to move forward. come.

The race between Stuart and Beckner is expected to be extremely competitive. Stuart is serving in the Hillsborough School District in her senior year. Beckner served two terms on the Hillsborough County Commission, but lost a bid for the registrar’s job in a democratic primaries against Frank in 2016.

The registrar pays $ 171,000 annually.

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