by Mitch Perry
Well, it looks like there are some Democrats in Hillsborough County willing to run for County Commissioner after all.
With the recent departures of Mary Mulhern and April Griffin from the countywide District 7 race, the pickings have been slim for Democrats in challenging the GOP incumbents on the Board of County Commission.
But this morning Elizabeth Belcher, a frequent speaker during the public comment portion of BOCC meetings, announced that she is running for the Democratic nomination in District 2. That seat is currently held by Republican Victor Crist.
In a press release, Belcher announced that her platform will concentrate on ethics, equality and the economy. Regarding ethics, she says that's been lacking with the current crew of commissioners, "when big donors are given access to the elected officials, while taxpayers are denied equal access."
Specifically she cites the example of the county giving $6.25 million to the developers for road improvements along Falkenburg Road in Brandon for a new Bass Pro Shops, a move that the BOCC approved 6-1, despite considerable resentment from members of the community regarding the deal. She says that commissioners were too easily swayed by Bass Pro executives, citing how they contended that the retail giant would bring customers from hundreds of miles away.
In fact, Belcher says, she saw a document written on Bass Pro letterhead that cited just two percent of their customer base travels more than 200 miles away.
Belcher also expresses discontent with what's been happening in the Valrico/Bloomingdale area, where a big-box store is scheduled to be built despite hugely negative response from the community, which doesn't trust the change in zoning that is allowing the development to happen.
Belcher spent 27 years as a Criminal Investigator/Special Agent with the Internal Revenue Service. She ran for state Senate in District 24 back in 2010, losing out to Republican Tom Lee.
District 2 in Hillsborough County is currently held by Republican Victor Crist, who originally won the seat in 2010, and again in 2012.
"He's basically in lockstep with the Republican message of [Ken] Hagan and [Al] Higginbotham," Belcher says. "We've got to build, build, build, which is not doing anything.
"Hillsborough County can't survive continuing with the Republican Party totally in charge," she says of the current commission, which holds a 5-2 R-to-D edge.