Democrats and independents in Hillsborough County will have the rare opportunity to participate in a Republican primary in the county commission District 2 race between Commissioner Victor Crist and tea party activist Sharon Calvert.
They are the only candidates for the seat, so the primary will determine the winner, and thus all registered voters are eligible to cast a ballot for the representative from the district that covers northern Hillsborough.
Calvert is an experienced businesswoman who serves on the commission's citizens' advisory board. She has a strong financial background, and we trust her promise to be exacting about spending. She rightly wants transparency on all government contracts and, to her credit, fought the commission's initial effort to renew its waste management contract without putting it out to bid. She is less persuasive on nonfinancial issues. Calvert seems unconcerned about the costly problems irresponsible growth creates and seems indifferent to the environment.
In any event, Crist has been an effective and responsive commissioner. The former state representative and senator is a fiscal conservative and longtime champion of law enforcement. On the commission, he is focusing on economic development and job creation.
Crist, 55, believes attracting international trade will create jobs and says more collaboration among Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee would help the cause. He advocates regional strategies for ports and airports to ensure maximum success.
He has championed eliminating unnecessary rules and streamlining the regulatory process. He engineered the establishment of a $2 million grant program designed to boost the county's heritage and cultural businesses. He recognized that encouraging enterprises that highlight local historic and cultural assets would create jobs and give tourists a reason to stay here longer and spend more money.
Crist is a visionary with innovative, detailed ideas about how to revive urban areas with public-private partnerships that minimize public costs. Not every idea is a winner, but residents should be grateful he is constantly thinking about how to help Hillsborough prosper.
In the "universal primary" for county commission, District 2, The Tampa Tribune endorses Victor Crist.
In the District 6 Republican primary, two candidates with strong business backgrounds — Margaret Iuculano and Don Kruse — are seeking to challenge Commissioner Kevin Beckner in November for the countywide seat.
Both candidates are engaging, open-minded and smart.
Kruse, 52, is a former sales manager for a car dealership who now operates an occupational training school for those in the beauty and wellness industry.
He is basing his campaign largely on a plan to establish a two-year period during which property owners could improve their property up to 50 percent of its assessed value without assessments being increased. Kruse, who has run for the commission three previous times, believes this would spark construction and jobs.
This Property Improvement Without Assessments is a promising idea and deserves more analysis at the state level, where such a decision would be made.
Iuculano is the former CEO of a software training and consulting company and founder of Angels for Foster Kids, a non-profit organization that aids foster children.
She grew up in foster care, so her passion for helping needy children is coupled with an understanding that hard work and personal accountability lead to success.
She sees a disconnection between government and business, which needs more certainty and speed in the regulatory process. Yet she understands how sensible planning spares taxpayers' costs and knows the importance of protecting the environment.
The former Small Business Woman of the Year believes the county should be aggressive in identifying where the jobs are and what training programs are needed to fill them.
Iuculano, 46, promises to explore collaboration with employers on such thing as shared parking, transportation, tourism and economic development incentives.
Both candidates are energetic, thoughtful and focused on solutions, but Iuculano's business experience and work on behalf of neglected children give her a broader perspective.
In the Republican primary for county commission, District 6, the Tribune recommends Margaret Iuculano.