Last Friday, I attended my first Tiger Bay Club meeting and political debate. For those not familiar with the Tiger Bay Club, they bill themselves as "Tampa's most stimulating professional club" and a "political forum, a nonpartisan assembly."
The meetings feature speakers with audience participation in the form of vigorous questions and answers. The questions are judged by a three-person panel, and the best question is awarded the "Garfield" prize.
This particular meeting featured a debate between candidates for the office of Supervisor of Elections for Hillsborough County.
On the Republican side, Rich Glorioso, a former Air Force officer and term-limited Plant City state representative, presented his platform of restoring integrity to the office.
The Democratic candidate, Craig Latimer, a 35-year veteran of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office and current chief of staff of the elections office, is running on the platform that he and current supervisor Dr. Earl Leonard have restored integrity to the office. All agreed that this crucial post should be nonpartisan and that the essence of a properly executed election is that it has the trust of the electorate.
What was most notable about this meeting was the winning question and the answers. Proffered by Tiger Bay Club stalwart Tom Aderhold, the two-part question was, "Provide a graphic example that illustrates your nonpartisanship and an example of how your opponent is too partisan for this post."
Glorioso cited examples in his role as a longtime, nonpartisan member of the Plant City Commission and bipartisan efforts in the Legislature.
Latimer referred to instances from his four years running the day-to-day operations of the supervisor's office and actually conducting elections. When prompted to answer the second half of the question about their opponent's partisan nature, both candidates balked.
In this hyper-partisan election season with an electorate being pummeled with negative ads, two candidates refused the opportunity to cast aspersions on their rivals. This was clearly noteworthy for its reflection of the candidates' character. Each has spent decades in uniform dedicated to serving his nation and community. They have effectively eliminated personal attacks from the campaign, so voters will have only the issues to decide between the two.
The facts are that Glorioso voted for House Bill 1355, which limited voter registration and early voting and was intended to curb in-person voting fraud, which is as common as frost in Frostproof. Federal judges overturned it earlier this year.
Latimer has restored integrity to the Supervisor of Elections office and has a proven record of nearly 40 years of service to Hillsborough County. He is the only candidate who has actually run elections.
This will be a race to watch to see who will break first and go negative. It may also serve as an example of how civility and honor could be restored to political contests. I am hoping it is the latter.