Suarez tells CL that he's known Griffin for over 20 years, and that she asked for his support months ago, when she was contemplating a run for higher office. He said he enthusiastically offered it at that time.
Mulhern got into the BOCC race last September, the early announcement coming in part to get a head start in what promised to be a contested election. Griffin began making noise about entering the race later in the year, but didn't formally file to become a candidate until last week.
"To be honest with you, Mary's never approached me about supporting her or not," Suarez said. "I actually was surprised when she announced that she was going to run." He said there's been "no animosity" between the two, praising her as a "very fine City Councilwoman," and saying it should be an interesting race.
Mulhern wrote to CL this afternoon to say that she hasn't asked any current Hillsborough city or county public officials to be on her host committee. "It puts people in a difficult position," she wrote, "as I might be asking them to support me against a colleague that they will be working with for the next two years."
Interestingly Al Fox, a leading advocate for expanding trade with Cuba and a vocal supporter of Mulhern, is also attending Griffin's fundraiser next week. He tells CL that he intends to support both candidates, and plans to give both candidates the maximum $500 financial contribution.
"Mary has been one of the few leaders in Tampa that has the courage to speak out on US/Cuba relations, an issue important to me," Fox wrote in an email. "April has been one of the few members of the Hillsborough County School Board who has done her homework and been a very conscientious member of the Board."
Also supporting Griffin is Tampa state Representative Janet Cruz and La Gaceta publisher Patrick Manteiga, both part of the Hillsborough County Democratic party establishment.
In comparison, Mulhern is still considered something of a newcomer when it comes to longstanding relationships in the county, even though she has lived in Tampa for 15 years.
"Mary and I didn't get to know each other until after she got elected (in 2007)," Suarez says, while he first met Griffin when they were both part of the Hillsborough County Young Democrats. "So I've known April a very long time." He adds that she backed him when he ran unsuccessfully for state house in 1998.
Cl reached out to speak with Lisa Montelione but did not hear back for her before writing this story. If and when we do, we'll update this post.