Josh Burgin to challenge Mark Sharpe in Hillsborough County Commission race

When contacted by CL this afternoon, Sharpe, who already had a general election opponent in perennial candidate Neil Cosentino (who is running as a non party affiliated candidate), said he was not surprised that he now has Republican opposition, though he seemed to find it interesting that Burgin waited until virtually the last minute to get in the race.

"I love politics.  I love the battle of ideas.  You can never take anything for granted in office," Sharpe said.

Sharpe says he knows there are Republicans in the county who don't support the transportation proposal, but do support him, and have been telling him that as he makes public appearances.

Sharpe has raised over $82,000 for the race.  He says his strategy for the August 24 primary will not change, claiming that he's always been about talking about his ideas, not in disparaging his opponents.

Josh Burgin, in his press release announcing his candidacy says that he's a "Reagan Republican who believes in lower taxes and reducing the size and costs of government.  Mark Sharpe has proven that he isn't and I believe that Republicans are entitled to have a clear choice come Election Day."  Burgin previously ran unsuccessfully for a state House in 2004.

The talk for months amongst Hillsborough County political followers has been why no Republican had stood up to challenge Mark Sharpe in his bid for re-election in countywide District 7, as Sharpe has seemed to be alienating some in the GOP for his enthusiastic support of the one cent sales tax referendum on transportation.

Well, just before the qualifying deadline of noon today, a Republican has gotten into the race.  It's Josh Burgin, the former Executive Director of the Hillsborough County Republican Party.

In a statement, Burgin said it was a difficult decision, but said at some point conservatives have to take a stand on increased government spending. "Mark's decision to be the leading proponent for a 14% sales tax increase failed conservatives like me who supported him in the first place," Burgin said.

Sharpe is respected inside the Hillsborough Republican Party, but his stance in supporting the penny sales tax increase for transportation, which would begin the construction for a light rail in the county, has garnered opposition.

As CL has reported, Sharpe debated earlier this year at both a Hillsborough Republican party monthly meeting, and at a Tea Party event, where in both cases his argument for the transit tax garnered fewer votes than for his debate opponent who argued against the plan.

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