Mark Nash wants to make one thing perfectly clear.
has any ownership of this seat." That seat is the Hillsborough County Commission Democratic primary District 7 nomination that he officially announced his candidacy for late last week. It came a few weeks after Pat Kemp became the first member of the party in months to declare her candidacy for the nomination, filling an uncomfortable void left after both Mary Mulhern and April Griffin surprised supporters earlier by dropping out of the contest.
"Just because anybody might happen to file for that seat doesn't mean they claim it as theirs and there's a decree from some supernatural source," Nash adds.
The Brandon native emphasizes his street cred in Eastern Hillsborough County and his work overall over the past decade (which includes working on Commissioner Kevin Beckner's staff from 2008-2010) as one reason why he just might be a better countywide candidate than Kemp, a Seminole Heights resident for decades. Unquestionably Tampa based Democrats have found the going rough in trying to win countywide over the years in Hillsborough, and Nash says that his strengths outside the county matter, such as the fact that he ran for a county commission seat against Al Higginotham in District 4 back in 2012.
But Higginbotham won that race going away. Nash admits that the terrain on the eastern side of the county remains a significant challenge for Democrats, Not so in the countywide District 7 contest though, he asserts, by referring to Democratic victories by Bob Henriquez, Kevin Beckner and Craig Lattimer's victories in 2012, all by double-digits. "D vs. R, a lot of Tampa and Western Hillsborough Democrats understand what they're getting when there is an East Hillsborough Republican on the ballot attempting to represent them," he says.
Nash says the values and issues he ran on two years ago haven't changed at all, and that includes being a strong proponent for public transit. "The frustration in trying to get from point A to point B is increasingly becoming more time consuming, and quality of life decreases under those circumstances."He's also critical of the county's vote last year to give $6.25 million to repay developers for road construction projects that will ultimately serve customers who frequent a Bass Pro Shops retailer.
Nash says the Bass Pro deal epitomizes the fact that the Commission prefers to support big businesses vs. the little guys, and even mentions how they refused to answer Commission Chair Mark Sharpe's call to join him in sending a letter out to the local Hillsborough state delegation on a bill that would hurt local craft breweries (the bill did not make it through the Legislature).
"Government's role is to play referee and try to create as level a playing field, so that everybody has the opportunity to have a chance for success," Nash says, referring to how the sporting goods store Gander Mountain opened for business on Hillsborough Avenue west of Tampa late last year without any government intervention.
If you've read any of Kemp's rhetoric, you know that she and Nash aren't very far off in their prescriptions in fixing the County. So in many cases the Democrats choice could be based more on style than substance. Nash is complementary towards his new opponent, saying he applauds her focus on the environment and small businesses. But a la Charlie Crist vs. Rick Scott, Nash says his roots are from the area, which should count for something.
"I'm the only local guy. She's from outside the area," he says.
When contacted for reaction, Kemp (also sounding like Charlie Crist) said she was focused against running against Al Higginbotham. "That's why I jumped into this race." Kemp said her bona fides with county voters is solid, referring to her work as as Kathy Castor's aide when she served on the BOCC.
Nash admits that some of his friends have committed to Kemp already but compares those people to a driver who makes the wrong turn to their ultimate destination. "If you've realized you made a wrong turn on the road, you regroup, you reevaluate, and you find your way."