As election day looms closer, get to know the candidates and your voting options to be a well-informed voter.
After months of candidate advertising, debates and talk of what’s best for local cities, Hillsborough County and Florida, voting day is almost here.
Early voting for the 2022 General Election is underway and continues daily from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. until Sun., Nov. 6. Twenty-six Early Voting locations are scattered throughout Hillsborough County, including Bruton Memorial Library, at 302 McLendon Street. Each early voting location will also have a Secure Ballot Intake Station for voters who want to drop off their Vote By Mail ballot in person. The deadline for mail ballots to be in the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office is Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.
“We are a large county and I want our voters to have plenty of options so I keep Early Voting open for the maximum number of days allowed by law, including two full weekends,” said Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.
On Election Day, Tues., Nov. 8 from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., voters must vote in the polling place assigned to their precinct. Voters should bring a Florida Driver License or other acceptable photo and signature ID for voter check-in.
Visit www.VoteHillsborough.gov to find the full list of acceptable Id’s, a list of Early Voting locations and to check wait time at the various locations.
Who are the candidates? Here’s a brief synopsis of each candidate and their background. To learn more about any candidate, visit their official campaign Website.
United States Senator
Marco Rubio (Rep.)- Rubio grew up in Miami, watching his parents, who immigrated from Cuba work for the American dream. He is the incumbent Senator who works to advance conservative ideas that address issues Americans are facing, including creating the Paycheck Protection Program. He is married and has four children. For more information, visit www.marcorubio.com.
Val Demings (Dem.)- The youngest of seven children, Demings grew up in a two-room home in Jacksonville. She was the first in her family to graduate from college, earning a B.S. in Criminology from Florida State University, later earning a Master’s in public administration. Prior to her work in congress, she served 27 years with the Orlando Police Department, including five years as the Chief of Police. She is married and a mother of three sons For more information, visit www.valdemings.com.
Congress- District 15
Laurel Lee (Rep.)- Raised by a two-star general in the United States Air Force, Lee has served as a circuit court judge and federal prosecutor. She served with the DeSantis administration as Secretary of State but is ready to return home to Tampa to be its voice in Congress. For more information visit www.votelaurel.com.
Alan Cohn (Dem.)- Cohn is an award-winning investigative journalist. He has called his district home for 12 years. He is married and has two children. For more information about Cohn visit www.cohnforflorida.com.
Governor and Lieutenant Governor
Ron DeSantis and Jeannette Nunez (Rep.)- Born in Florida, DeSantis attended Yale University and Harvard Law School. He served in the U.S. Navy as a JAG officer. He has also served as a federal prosecutor and was elected to Congress in 2012. He is the 46th Governor of Florida. He is married and father of three children. For more information on DeSantis visit www.rondesantis.com.
Charlie Crist and Karla Hernandez (Dem.)- Crist grew up in Florida. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in 1978 and a J.D. from Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham. His career in public service includes serving as State Senator, Commissioner of Education, Attorney General, Governor and Congressman. For more information about Crist visit www.charliecrist.com.
Ashley Moody (Rep.)- Moody is hoping to retain her seat as Florida’s 38th Attorney General. A former Hillsborough County circuit judge, she is supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump. In her current position she focuses on issues of human trafficking, the opioid epidemic and fighting senior fraud.
Aramis Ayala (Dem.)- Ayala is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Detroit. She is a former public defender and Orlando-area State Attorney looking to unseat Moody. She said she will advocate for citizens’ rights, freedoms and security.
Chief Financial Officer
Jimmy Patronis (Rep.)- Patronis currently serves as the state’s Chief Financial Officer. He is a native Floridian and earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University. He is a partner in a family-owned seafood restaurant called Captain Anderson’s but has also served in several public offices. He also serves as State Fire Marshall and member of the Florida Cabinet.
Adam Hattersley (Dem.)- A former state representative, he earned a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and is a U.S. Navy veteran. He has worked for a Fortune 500 company and in 2016 he and his wife opened a small business helping other businesses promote themselves.
Commissioner of Agriculture
Wilton Simpson (Rep.)- Simpson is an egg farm owner whose family has been in Florida for five generations. He has strong ties to the agriculture industry, supplying eggs for Florida’s families in supermarkets across the state.
Naomi Esther Blemur (Dem.)- A Miami native and small business owner with a background in finance, she wants to be an advocate for small farmers, using her background to connect more farmers to resources.
State Representative District 68
Lawrence McClure (Rep.)- McClure was born and raised in Hillsborough County. He is a business owner and resident of Dover. He is the current incumbent, assuming office in 2017 and works to address policies that negatively impact the environment, water supply and future land use. He is married.
Lorissa Wright (Dem.)- Wright was born in South Florida into a hard-working Jamaican family. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida in 2022. She is an entrepreneur, realtor and Hillsborough County substitute teacher. She is also active in her community.
State Senate District 23
Danny Burgess (Rep.)- A lifelong resident of Pasco County, he was elected in 2020 to represent District 20 in the Florida Senate. At the age of 18 he was elected to his hometown City Council, making him the youngest elected official in the State of Florida. He is an attorney by trade and a partner at a law firm. He is married and has three children.
Michael Harvey (Dem.)- Harvey was born into a military family. He is an entrepreneur at heart, building up a family-owned transportation company. He is raising five children.
Board of County Commissioners District 5
Donna Cameron Cepeda (Rep.)- Dr. Cepeda is an Army veteran and author. She earned a B.A. from USC and advanced degrees from LCU, where she has worked as an associate professor. She is a licensed and ordained minister, counseling people that have suffered life trauma.
Mariella Smith (Dem.)- Smith is a fourth-generation Tampa native with Cuban heritage. She ran her own graphic design business for 30 years before winning election to the commission in 2018. She has long been involved in protecting the community’s character and environment.
Board of County Commissioners District 7
Joshua Wostal (Rep.)- Wostal is a successful entrepreneur, decorated veteran and passionate advocate for disadvantaged children. He earned his M.B.A. from the University of Florida. He owns and operates a shipping and printing business. He is married and has one son.
Kimberly Overman (Dem.)- Overman is the incumbent and has lived in the Tampa Bay area for 37 years. She is a successful small business owner in the financial planning sector. She was elected to the Commission in 2018.
Supreme Court Justices
Justice Charles T. Canady- Born in Lakeland in 1954, Canady received his B.A. from Haverford College in 1976 and his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979. He was a practicing lawyer at Holland and Knight from 1979 – 1982 and at Lane, Trohn, et. al. from 1983 – 1992. He served three terms in the Florida House of Representatives then served in the United States House of Representatives. He was General Counsel to Governor Jeb Bush and appointed to the Second District Court of Appeal beginning in 2002. He was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by Governor Charlie Crist in 2008.
Justice John D. Couriel- Born in Miami in 1978, Couriel, a native Spanish speaker, received his A.B. from Harvard College in 2000 and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2003. His early career included a clerkship for the Honorable John D. Bates of the United State District Court for the District of Columbia. He also practiced law with a firm in New York. In 2009, he became an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He prosecuted cases involving international monetary laundering, public integrity, healthcare fraud and human trafficking crimes. He was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by Governor Ron DeSantis in 2020.
Justice Jamie Grosshans- Raised in Mississippi, Grosshans graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law. She served as an assistant state attorney for the Ninth Circuit of Florida in both the misdemeanor and felony divisions where she tried numerous criminal jury trials. She later entered private practice and founded her own law firm where she focused on family law and criminal defense matters. In 2018 she was appointed by former Governor Rick Scott to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. She was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in 2020 by Governor Ron DeSantis.
Justice Jorge Labarga- Born in Cuba in 1952, Labarga arrived in the United States at age 11. He graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in 1976 and a J.D. in 1979. He became an Assistant Public Defender in West Palm Beach. In 1982 he joined the State Attorney’s Office, where he tried cases ranging from theft to homicide. In 1987 he joined the firm of Cone, Wagner, Nugent, Roth, Romano & Eriksen and specialized in personal injury trial work. In 1992 he participated in founding the law firm Roth, Duncan & Labarga, where he continued to specialize in personal injury litigation and criminal defense. In 2008 he was appointed by Governor Charlie Crist to the Fourth District Court of Appeal then in 2009 he took office on the Florida Supreme Court after appointment by Governor Christ.
Justice Ricky Polston- A native of Graceville, a small farming community in the Panhandle, Polston graduated from Chipola College in 1975 with an associate’s degree, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, where he was named FSU’s Most Outstanding Accounting Student. He became a certified public accountant but after seven years returned to FSU for his law degree. He obtained a juris doctorate in 1986. He worked in private law practice for 14 years before becoming a judge at the Florida First District Court of Appeal in 2001. He became a justice of the Florida Supreme Court in 2008. Polston and his wife have been married for 44 years, have 10 children, including an adopted sibling group of six and numerous grandchildren.
District Court of Appeal Judges
Judge Patricia Joan Kelly- Kelly earned a B.A. degree in political science from the University of South Florida and her J.D. from the University of Florida College of Law. She practiced law with firms in West Palm Beach and Tampa. She obtained board certification in appellate law from The Florida Bar in 1998. In 2001, Governor Jeb Bush appointed her to the Second District Court of Appeal.
Judge Nelly N Khouzam- Khouzam earned a B.A. degree in history from the University of Florida in 1979 and her J.D. from the University of Florida College of Law in 1981. She served as law clerk to Honorable Jack R. Schoonover of the Second District Court of Appeal, entered private practice and then served 14 years as the circuit court judge in the Sixth Judicial Circuit. She was appointed to the Second District Court of Appeal in 2008. She is also an author and lecturer. She is married and has one daughter.
Judge Suzanne Y. Labrit- Born in Nashville, Labrit earned a B.A. from the University of Florida in 1981 and her J.D. from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law in 1986. She has worked in private practice, where she handled litigation and appeals involving commercial real estate, healthcare, insurance coverage and intellectual property. Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Labrit to the Second District Court of Appeal in 2020. She is married and has three children.
Judge Matt Lucas- A Tampa native, Lucas earned a B.A. degree in economics from Florida State University and a J.D. from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. He then went into private practice in Tampa. He is board certified in Business Litigation Law. In 2010, Governor Charlie Crist appointed Lucas to the Hillsborough County Court and then appointed to the Circuit Court of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in 2013 by Governor Rick Scott. In 2014, Scott appointed him to the Second District Court of Appeal. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his family and writing.
Judge Robert Morris- Born in Jacksonville and raised in Florida and The Bahamas, Morris earned a B.S. from the University of Florida, a J.D. from DePaul University and a L.L.M. from Duke. He practiced law for 17 years, served as a chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit. He has served as an appellate judge in the Second District Court of Appeal since 2009 and is its chief judge. He is married and has three children.
Judge Stevan Travis Northcutt- Born in Tallahassee, Northcutt earned a B.A. in mass communications from the University of South Florida in 1975 and a J.D. from the Florida State University College of Law in 1978. He has been in private practice with firms in Tampa. Governor Lawton Chiles Jr. appointed Northcutt to the Second District in 1997. He is also involved in many civic activities. He is married and has one child.
Judge John K. Stargel- Born in Kentucky, Stargel earned a B.S. degree in economics and business management from the University of Tampa in 1987 and a J.D. degree from the Florida State University College of Law in 1991. He started his legal career working on tax and budget issues for the Florida House of Representatives. He served as Assistant General Counsel and General Counsel for several corporations and was a partner in a Lakeland law firm. He was elected as a Circuit Judge, Tenth Judicial Circuit, in 2006. Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Stargel to the Second District Court of Appeals in 2020. he is married and has five children and six grandchildren.
Judge Craig C. Villanti- Born in New York, Villanti earned a B.A. at State University of New York in 1974 and a J.D. from Stetson University College of Law in 1977. He has worked in private practice, was appointed as a traffic court magistrate for the Sixth Judicial Circuit and circuit court judge for the Sixth Judicial Circuit. Governor Jeb Bush appointed him to the Second District Court of Appeals in 2003. He is married and has three children.
County Circuit Judge Group 14
Melissa Black- Born to immigrant parents and raised in Brandon, Black earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and a J.D. from Stetson University College of Law. She has more than 16 years of experience inside a courtroom, serving as a public litigator with the Attorney General’s office before staring her own family law practice. She’s done a lot of pro bono work, serving hundreds of children in need. As a mother of three, she is an advocate for foster children and teens across Hillsborough County.
Mike Isaak- Isaak earned an undergraduate degree from Rollins College in 1986 and a J.D. from Samford University in 1992. He has practiced law for more than 30 years. He served as an assistant state attorney, where he spent more than five years prosecuting criminals. He has also worked in private practice where he focused on criminal defense. He has tried more than 150 jury trials as lead counsel and more than 500 non-jury trials. Isaak is married and has two children.
Soil and Water Conservation- District Group 2
Ryan Gill- Gill is a sixth generation Floridian. His family has farmed and ranched in Hillsborough County for more than 100 years and is currently Chairman of the Florida Strawberry Festival Beef Breed Show. He hopes to enrich conservation issues and protect land owner rights.
Kim “Klarc” O’Connor O’Connor, a native Floridian, graduated from the University of South Florida with a philosophy degree then earned a J.D. degree from University of Florida. While living in Key West she earned the nickname “KLARC” for her dancing skills. She held this position in the past but resigned to run for a county commission seat.
Soil and Water Conservation- District Group 3
David Maynard- A West Virginia native, he earned a B.A. from the University of South Florida. He formerly held a seat on the Soil and Water Conservation Board for two terms.
Adam Young- Young, the former president of the Florida Strawberry Grower’s Association, is a strawberry farmer and active in his community.
Constitutional Amendment #1
This amendment will allow the Florida Legislature to pass laws that would make improvements intended to protect homes from flood damage exempt from higher tax assessments. A ‘yes’ vote means you approve the change. A ‘no’ vote means you prefer the status quo and flood resistance improvements may result in higher property assessments and higher taxes.
Constitutional Amendment #2
This amendment seeks to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission, that meets every 20 years. This doesn’t affect the ability to revise or amend the State Constitution through other means. A ‘yes’ vote would eliminate the Constitution Revision Commission. A ‘no’ vote keeps the commission intact.
Constitutional Amendment #3
This amendment would authorize the Legislature to grant an additional homestead tax exemption for non-school levies of up to $50,000 of the assessed value of homestead property owned by classroom teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, child welfare services professionals and active duty members of the military. A ‘yes’ vote would allow the Legislature to create the new exemption. A ‘no’ vote would reject it.
Hillsborough Transportation Surtax Referendum
A judge struck down the language of the referendum. While still on the ballot, a vote for or against the referendum will still be counted but it may be a moot point depending on the appeals court that will hear the case.