HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Two new members are joining the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and a third is holding onto her seat after a highly publicized race.
Gwen Myers won district three, filling chairman Les Miller’s seat. Meanwhile, Harry Cohen won the district one seat, previously held by Sandy Murman. Murman unsuccessfully tried to unseat Pat Kemp from a countywide seat.
The results move the board from a 4-3 democratic majority to a 5-2 democratic majority.
“Let me remind everybody not too long ago if you go back just a couple of years it was a 5-2 republican majority. So very quickly we’ve gone from a Republican majority of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners to a 5-2 Democratic majority and I think that really has to do with the trend of Hillsborough. I mean it’s turning more blue,” said ABC Action News political analyst Ron Pierce, pointing to development in the county.
“I think you’ve seen a lot more independents and democrats have registered in Hillsborough County and I think that trend will continue by the way I think you’ll continue to see Hillsborough turn more blue over the next couple of years,” he said.
This year, Pierce said he believes more people have paid attention to local government races thanks to COVID.
The Hillsborough BOCC plays a role in the pandemic response, controls a multi-billion dollar budget and impacts the roads we drive on and infrastructure we use.
“If you look at the population within Hillsborough, they have the ability to vote on number one from infrastructure to developments to healthcare related issues. They work with the sheriff on public safety, budgets and priorities and infrastructure that goes along with that as well,” said Pierce.
Myers said her priorities joining the board include transportation, affordable housing and healthcare.
“Right now we’re waiting on a decision from the Florida Supreme Court to rule and hopefully rule in Hillsborough County favor. If not, I plan to lead the way in 2021 to bring it back to the board to be placed on the 2022 ballot to be voted again,” Myers said, of the All for Transportation tax.
She also pointed to district 3.
“I want to see district 3 prosper like other districts of the county with good-paying jobs, affordable housing, healthcare, a safe and walkable community and that CSX freight rail be converted to commuter rail to serve the people,” said Myers, adding she wants to grow investment in affordable housing.
Myers beat Maura Cruz Lanz, who congratulated Myers in a statement to ABC Action News.
“Thank you to all of those that voted and supported me through this journey. This was a very new experience for me in the world of politics. I know I started late in the game, but I’m grateful for the experience. Don’t count me out, I’m just getting started,” Lanz wrote. “I wanted also to congratulate my opponent Gwen Myers for the win. God Bless Hillsborough County.”
Cohen won over Scott Levinson.
“The short-term challenge is clearly the aftermath or being in the middle of the COVID epidemic, the economic fallout, the aftermath in terms of tourism and hospitality and our economy and whether or not we’re able to stand things back up quickly,” said Harry Cohen.
Cohen said long-term, priorities for him include hurricane preparedness and water issues.
“Longer term, transportation, infrastructure, managing growth, environmental protection hurricane preparedness, fiscal responsibility, rebuilding our tourism and hospitality industry and arts and culture in our community,” he said.