TAMPA — Former Hillsborough County Democratic chair Pat Kemp said today she will enter the countywide District 7 commission race.
Kemp, 57, is the only Democrat in a race that includes Republican Commissioner Al Higginbotham. Two other well-known Democrats, school board member April Griffin and Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern, were candidates for the seat but dropped out.
Republicans Robin Lester and Don Kruse are also in the race.
Kemp, a lawyer and former news director at WUSF-FM, said her main campaign issue will be smart growth. She intends to take Higginbotham to task for his vote on a controversial land-use amendment that allows a big box store to be built behind Bloomingdale Avenue. The new land-use category only applied to the parcel where developers want to build the store.
Residents in the area have filed a lawsuit against Hillsborough County because of the land-use change.
“The people out there made it very clear they didn’t want another big box store,” Kemp said. “I don’t think citizens should have to sue the county over development decisions like that.”
Kemp said she also will challenge Higginbotham over his vote against a domestic registry for unmarried couples.
Beating Higginbotham will be tough. The 59-year-old commissioner has high name recognition and $164,091. He probably would have more but he put his fundraising efforts on hold for months while he flew to China, India, Los Angeles and New York to lure the Indian International Film Academy awards to Tampa and then promote it around the country. Higginbotham served two terms in the east- and south-county District 4 seat and is termed out.