For Tampa progressives, Pat Kemp investiture a bright spot amid the Trumpening

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For Tampa Bay's Democratic voters, there hasn't been a whole lot to smile about since Nov. 8.

But the election of lawyer and longtime progressive activist Pat Kemp to the Hillsborough County Commission is one.

Kemp was sworn in Tuesday, as were two other incumbents who easily held on to their seats.

""I'm just deeply faithful for all the faith, the love and encouragement given to me by so many friends and supporters across Hillsborough County," she said after being sworn in.

Kemp, who narrowly lost a race in 2014 against Republican incumbent Al Higginbotham — the closeness by which she lost itself being a feat — was surrounded by progressives who had served on the commission before her, including now-Congresswoman Kathy Castor and former Commissioner Ed Turanchik.

She pledged that she would aim to grow the economy and promote environmental sustainability by encouraging the county to more enthusiastically embrace opportunities for creating jobs in fields like renewable energy.

“My top priority will be promoting good-paying, 21st-century jobs in Hillsborough County,” she said.

She added that she hopes she can help the county embark on a transit overhaul that will help it move away from building more roads rather than building alternative modes of transportation to move people around more efficiently.

Kemp succeeds Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who has represented the countywide seat since 2008 and termed out this year. 

She faced newcomer Tim Schock, a Republican in the race for the open seat, but it was the four-way Democratic primary in August that was the real challenge.

As Beckner had, Kemp is likely to be a strong progressive voice on the dais — something that would otherwise be largely lacking.

A possible damper on that, however, could be her colleagues' voting Commissioner Stacy White, who represents eastern Hillsborough on the board, to serve as chair of the commission. That means he'll be able to steer the conversations that happen among board members and, to some degree, set the agenda.

While White has been staunchly against any measure that could potentially grow government, raise taxes or cost even negligible amounts of money (he even voted against the county's new animal abuser registry), he has been shown to be in favor of environmental protection — even opposing the Florida bear hunt.

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