Higginbotham raised nearly $48,000 in the first quarter of this year, dwarfing both Mulhern and Griffin in the early going. He's a former chair of the Hillsborough Republican Party, and Jeb Bush endorsed him earlier this year, something Kruse admitted "doesn't help."
"I'm not going to say Al is a bad person, we just have different views on how the county should be run," said Kruse, who operates a beauty school in Westchase with his wife. While Kruse considers himself a fiscal conservative, he acknowledges that he's more socially moderate than the current District 4 commissioner. He said he supports a domestic partner registry in the county, something that Higginbotham voted against when it came before the County Commission earlier this year.
I asked Kruse — who lost the GOP County Commission primaries to Rose Ferlita in 2006, Brian Blair in 2008 and Margaret Iuculano in 2012 — if he's simply too moderate for the average Hillsborough Republican voter?
Kruse said there are a lot more moderates in the county than one might think, but they don't come out and vote in big numbers for primary races. He said the local Republican he emulates most is Mark Sharpe.
Is he worried that this fourth run might give him the reputation as a perpetual candidate that can't break through? The 53 year old said that's not a concern.
"Unless you keep trying, if you stop, you'll never accomplish anything," he said. "If you really believe in it, you have to believe in yourself first. And I really believe in myself."