Jim Norman quits state Senate race

Is his political career over?

It should be noted that the reporter who broke this story, Alan Cohn, was told by ABC 28 two weeks ago that his services would no longer be needed at the station ? not that he was ever given an explanation why.

From this vantage point, it looks like Norman's political career is over.

A Hillsborough County Commissioner for 18 years (1992-2010), Norman was a symbol for years of what many decried in Hillsborough County government ? a lawmaker who boosted development at all costs. He was a close ally of Ralph Hughes, the powerful concrete mogul who died in June, 2008 at the age of 77.

After his passing, Norman suggested that a way to honor Hughes' crusades for development and smaller government would be to rename the county's Moral Courage Award for Hughes, outraging local environmentalists and others who resisted his pro-growth ideology. (The BOCC later reversed itself and took Hughes' name off the award.)

The rise and fall of Jim Norman is also a story about the weakness of the Hillsborough Democratic Party. Although seriously challenged by Kevin Ambler during the GOP primary of 2010, Norman won, mainly because Tallahassee and Tampa Bay Republicans weren't big Ambler fans and stood by their man at the time.

In November, the Democrats didn't even have a candidate to run against Norman, even after more damaging information had been released and circulated about him among the public. Any breathing body with a "D" attached to his or her name might have done the trick, but there were none to be found.

By all reports Norman worked hard and maintained a low-key presence in Tallahassee over the past two years. He was hailed as a hero by some for helping to restore some of the funding to USF after the draconian cuts to the school originally proposed by the Florida Senate.

When Rob Wallace, a former legislator, announced his candidacy challenging Norman months ago, people began to wonder if Norman's time might be up in Tally. When John Legg recently announced he too would take on Norman, Republicans began rallying around his candidacy, and Norman dropped out, rather than risking a potentially humiliating loss.

Mark Levine was Jim Norman's attorney in his state ethics case, during which the now former state Senator admitted his guilt in failing to disclose a $500,000 "gift" from the late Ralph Hughes that went to purchase Norman's vacation home in Arkansas in 2006.

Levine tells the Tampa Bay Times today that Norman's decision not to run for re-election in state Senate District 17 had nothing to do with his resignation.

Of course not.

No, it was more like the fact that much of the Florida GOP establishment, who'd stood firmly behind him when his troubles reached Def-con 4 levels two years, has abandoned him massively in recent weeks, rallying around Pasco state representative John Legg's candidacy against Norman in this August's GOP primary election.

But before we dip too much into the Norman (cess)pool, how about revisiting the media story where it all began to go South for Norman — an ABC 28 news report from July 10, 2010.

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