Hillsborough Country Property Appraiser Rob Turner isn't going away … yet.

Since the scandal story broke, Varian has done further reporting, including publishing stories about the frequency of Turner being out of the office traveling on behalf of his professional association, teaching classes or attending conferences. (Specifically, Turner has been out 88 days from the beginning of 2011 until now.)

"Frankly, the people who talk to me say it's a bunch of bunk," he says of those reports. "This office requires somebody to be 24/7. I mean if I'm out of town, out of the office, out of my chair, I am in constant contact with the office from where I am. Between iPads and cell phones this office is in my life everyday, and so I work hard to make sure that it has been successful. It's an effective office, it's very user-friendly for the residents of the county, and that's because of the hard work that we put it in it to make it that way. "

The odds are formidable against Turner winning this time around. If he can survive the primary challenge from Storms — a controversial figure in her own right who has never won countywide — he'd face Democrat Bob Henriquez in November, a former house member who recently won the endorsement of the conservative-leaning Tampa Bay Builders Association. The endorsement is perhaps less astonishing when you consider that Henriquez once served as the TBBA's government affairs coordinator.

Turner says experience should count for something, deriding Storms and Henriquez as creatures of Tallahassee.

"I, on the other hand, when I was first elected, I was already a state certified general appraiser; I managed large groups of real estate professionals so I had all of the expertise, the training, the experience to take office. These are folks who, frankly, are just looking for a job because they don't have the qualifications. We would not elect a plumber to become our sheriff. We would not elect a welder to be the state attorney. It requires very specific and well qualified details of education."

Very true, but then those would-be welders or plumbers presumably wouldn't be running against a wounded candidate with embarrassing personal issues that made front page news.

Despite his appearance at the Hob Nob on Wednesday, Turner finished behind both Storms and Henriquez in the straw poll of over 400 voters. Storms received 42 percent of the vote, Henriquez 35 percent, and Turner just 16 percent.

  • Rob Turner

Despite calls from members of his own party to step down, Rob Turner has said from day one of his "sexting" scandal that he would not resign his job as Hillsborough County's Property Appraiser.

But the Republican must now face the most serious challenge to his 16-year career in office, as state Senator Ronda Storms has announced she will oppose him in the primary election for the GOP nomination on Aug. 14.

The sexting scandal is well documented at this point: Turner for years sent what have been described in media accounts as "hard-core pornography" or "lurid texts" to his human resources director, Carolyn Fillippone, a woman he had dated years earlier.

Turner confessed to the Tampa Bay Times' Bill Varian back on May 21 that he had done so, but not on the county's time or with county computers or phones. Turner fired Fillippone at the same time the story was first being reported, alleging that she lied about him in a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Now Fillippone is suing, claiming wrongful termination.

Turner refuses to back down, and appeared Wednesday night at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce's annual "Hob Nob" and straw poll, an opportunity for candidates on next month's ballot to mingle and attract voters.

Turner says he's banking on the voters to understand the difference between a personal failing and a professional one. "They are intelligent people who understand that this office demands having a qualified individual. None of the other candidates have any qualifications to even manage the office, so I am the person who has managed it effectively and I intend to continue to do that."


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