Some Hillsborough Democrats unhappy with perception that FDP took sides in County Commission race

The most interesting and competitive race among Hillsborough County Democrats this summer is the District 7 County Commission primary race between Seminole Heights activist Pat Kemp and Mark Nash, who previously ran unsuccessfully against Al Higginbotham in the District 4 race back in 2012.

Recent fundraising totals show the two are extremely competitive (actually Nash has a slight lead there after getting into the race a few weeks after Kemp), but there was some consternation voiced at Monday night's Democratic Executive Committee meeting when it was learned that the Florida Democratic Party had contributed $1,000 to Kemp's campaign — after Nash entered the race.

"We were flabbergasted," Nash told CL on Tuesday about this fact while poring over Kemp's most recent financial report, which shows the FDP contributing $1,000 to Kemp's campaign on May 7. "I think it's unfortunate that this was done."

But it's not all bad for Nash — the FDP now says they will cut a similar check for him.

"When Pat Kemp filed, she reached out to the FDP for support and we gave her a donation because we support our local candidates," responded Max Steele with the Florida Democratic Party. "Kemp was the only candidate in the race when the donation was made. Once Mark Nash declared, the party made an identical donation to his campaign. We look forwarded to a spirited primary and victory in November."

Still, it's a bit embarrassing for the party.

"This is highly unusual for this to happen. Why would this have taken place?" Nash wonders. The question he has is why the FDP is contributing to any candidate just yet, when there could be other candidates entering races before the end of this week, which is the deadline for getting into any state or local race.

Kemp says it's no mystery. She says that though the date listed in her financial report shows that the money came in after Nash had declared his candidacy, she had requested the contribution before that was the case. And she says things are looking up for her campaign, listing local politicos who have endorsed her, such as Kathy Castor, Betty Reed, Mary Mulhern, Lisa Montelione and Yolie Capin, among others. "Women do a lot better in Hillsborough County, and I think I have a record that speaks to women and [other] people too. Once I get information about myself and people learn about the candidates, I expect to win the primary."

Nash says the real story is how, in a single reporting period, he was able to make a statement by out-fundraising Kemp, and he's keeping his campaign rhetoric targeted towards the GOP candidate in the race, Al Higginbotham. "[The voters] are going to have a tried and true Tea Party Republican who has consistently been a roadblock against transit. He's certainly not advocated for smart growth," Nash says, comparing Higginbotham to Ronda Storms. "Does the public want to vote for Ronda Storms all over again?" he asks.

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