Welcome back, disgraced ultra-conservative ex-commissioner Jim Norman!

You've probably heard by now that former State Senator and Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman has jumped back into politics this week by filing to run for the commission's District 6 seat.

Norman, a Republican who previously served on the commission for 18 years until terming out in 2010, faces a crowded field, including two other Republicans and three Democrats.

If you'll recall, in 2010, Norman was steeped in controversy over a large Arkansas lake house a developer/political ally purchased for Norman's wife, which he didn't disclose as an asset on his campaign documentation. (The whole thing gave us a creepy, Twin-Peaks-but-Southern vibe.) He won his State Senate seat despite the scandal, but withdrew his bid for re-election two years later after escaping prosecution.


At the time, he won a nod in CL's Best of the Bay for "Best Retirement," an honor he shared with arguably sleazier former commissioner Kevin White. (By the way, have you voted in this year's BOTB yet?)

What stood out most to us about Norman back when he served was his staunch, cranky brand of conservatism that should, by now, only exist in history books. He was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party, or so it seemed to us, fighting LGBT equality and transit if change in the status quo was threatened on either front. 

Brian Willis, one of the three Democrats running for the countywide seat, said Norman's presence in the race places the stakes extremely high.

“I think it's clear now that this race is a fight for the future of Hillsborough County," he said. "Jim's policies, whether it's opposition to respecting the rights of gay people in the community, support for the Confederacy or issues of transportation and development have been proven wrong over and over again. Jim being elected would be a step back for this community.”

In addition to Willis, the other two Democrats in the race are activist Pat Kemp and former County Commissioner and City Councilman Thomas Scott. The other GOP candidates are Thomas Avino and Tim Schock.

Norman probably has the most name recognition of the candidates (and he's distanced himself from that weird lake house thing enough that perhaps fundraising will come easy once again). But Willis said he thinks the county's voters ought to see past all that.

“I think Hillsborough County's ready for new leadership," he said. "The county's changing. You look at all the development that's happening in downtown, in the urban core, all the exciting growth in our tech industry and breweries, this is really a different place from when he served on the commission.”

For your entertainment, we've provided a compilation below of the commissioner's most notable moments, a Jim Norman's Greatest Hits, if you will:

  • Norman "angered black leaders with a proclamation honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee," the Tampa Bay Times writes in a recent profile.
  • In 2004, he supported removing gays from protection under the county's human rights ordinance: "I see this as [leading] to gay marriage next," he said, according to the profile. "This is not going to be San Francisco east."
  • He was a vehement opponent to an event having a referendum over light rail in 2010, calling it a "quagmire."
  • He called the Affordable Care Act "a socialism takeover," according to the Times profile.
  • He was never big on letting communities shape their own growth plans, independent of developers.
  • While he was a State Senator, he filed a bill making it illegal to take photos or videos in factory farms.

The Times quotes him saying he's matured a bit over the years, so we'll see if that's actually the case.

The primary election for the seat is next August.

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