Transit activist is first to file in what will probably be a crowded Hillsborough Commission race

As Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner prepares to vacate his seat due to term limits and run for County Clerk in 2016, the field of candidates vying to replace him is likely to be crowded.

The first to announce his candidacy is Brian Willis, 31, a Democrat who works with the transit advocacy group Connect Tampa Bay. He announced he's running this afternoon with a media release and a polished campaign video touting his accomplishments and the list of things he'd like to do for the county.

“I have always been dedicated to making Hillsborough a better place to live," Willis said in a written statement. "Turning talk into action on transportation will be a key part of my campaign, but transportation is just one piece of the puzzle. I want new ideas and action on vital issues like supporting the first responders that keep our community safe, and keeping Hillsborough special by protecting our diverse neighborhoods, rural lands, and beautiful waterways."

So far, the only registered candidate aside from Willis is Marisol Blanco, who has been running since last year, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections website.

But that should change soon, both for Republicans and Democrats. Pat Kemp, who has long been active with the Democratic Party, announced her run months ago. 

“[Willis] has as good a shot as any,” Democratic political consultant Victor DeMaio said. “He's a fresh young face. I wish him a lot of luck.”

While he sees potential with Willis, he said, he wishes Democrats wouldn't all try to run for the same open seat, but branch out a bit and go after a state Senate or House seat instead of causing a rift for the party with a primary.

Post-primary, the competition will most likely be stiff.

Republicans said to be eyeing that seat include Ronda "little g, little p" Storms and Arkansas Jim Norman, both of whom are former county commissioners and state Senators. 

“It's going to be a very interesting race,” DiMaio said.

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