Fresh Faces

Ten up-and-coming politicos who could rock 2006.

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It comes as little surprise that her top two issues are related to her career in real estate: strengthening Florida's eminent domain laws to protect homeowners and working to lower insurance costs. Riley said that between rising home insurance and taxes, not to mention the real estate boom, affordable housing is getting scarce. She wants to see the state rethink the size of a trust fund for affordable housing that was limited in the late 1990s during tight budgeting times.

(Disclosure: Her opponent in the Republican primary, Ed Hooper, was a client of mine when I was a political consultant.)

5. Building green — and convincing others to join him.

"I don't see myself with a political future," says Josh Bomstein. But the work he's doing as an advocate for green building certainly will impact the face of growth in this area for some time.

Bomstein is on the board of directors and is membership chairman of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, an organization for the architectural/ engineering/ construction industry that advocates using more environmentally friendly methods. He won the group's annual service award for his work on promoting sustainable design and development.

While other green cities movements are at times critical of the trade group's efforts as being only marketing, Bomstein points out that great savings can be achieved for commercial building owners who choose to construct green.

"They see the value. They pay a little more now but they save money over time," said Bomstein, who is the business development manager for his father Alan's Creative Contractors in Clearwater. "For a long time, the green-building advocates have had extreme viewpoints. But now, for the contractors, you don't have to substantially change the way you do things. It's not that out of line with what we're doing already."

Bomstein also has a full plate with other civic endeavors (he starts a three-year term on the Clearwater Arts Foundation in January).

6. Pinellas Democrats' hopes ride with local consultant.

If there is anywhere in Florida where Democrats have a shot at picking up a few seats in the House of Representatives, it is in Pinellas County, where the demographics are shifting to a very independent-minded middle ground. If they are to have any hope at all, they're going to need a big performance from Kevin King, their newly named Pinellas field director.

King is young (26), local (graduate of Gibbs High and the University of South Florida), and experienced (running several Democratic campaigns). That makes him different in at least one important way from the usual consulting suspects that get parachuted in as party field directors: He's from here.

Democrats believe they will be competitive in the House seats now held by Republicans Frank Farkas and Sue Berfield (both running for the Senate); and Leslie Waters. King will work with Democratic candidates to help in fundraising and grassroots organizing. He just came off the Darden Rice campaign in St. Petersburg, which performed well on both those counts. Now if the Party could only dig up a full slate of decent candidates with which he could work...

7. From Tampa chamber to Hillsborough Commission.

Here's another young candidate (34) looking to win in his first race: Brad Swanson wants to succeed Kathy Castor on the Hillsborough County Commission.

In preparation for the race earlier this year, Swanson stepped down as spokesman for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, which gave him experience dealing with media and good connections to corporate leaders in the area.

The Apollo Beach resident raised a quick $23K during his first fundraising quarter (much of it from development and real estate sources), and he has the support of such GOP activists as Ralph Hughes.

His platform, in his own words: "Smaller government, lower taxes, conservative." He's an unabashed fiscal and social conservative, and he has the successful Republican political consultant Michael Corcoran on board to direct his campaign.

Swanson is playing catch-up to opponent Rose Ferlita's campaign fundraising. Ferlita is a popular city councilwoman (and, disclosure time, a former political client of mine), but it is not clear how her more moderate and urban form of Republicanism will be accepted countywide and in a party primary instead of her usual nonpartisan city races. Swanson is widely viewed as the conservative choice in the race, and with the ways things go in Republican primaries in Hillsborough, that is one heck of an advantage.

8. Putting out political fires.

If you are a candidate for office, there are two big endorsements you want to receive: the police officers and the firefighters. And since the tragedy of 9/11 and the loss of life suffered by the NYFD, firefighters are the endorser of choice to gain public sympathy and street cred.

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