Hillsborough County Gang of 5

By Mike Kersmarki


Just like some Republican Congressional leaders have lost touch with many Americans on stopping the immigration madness, the GOP’s five Hillsborough County Commissioners are now out of step with grassroots Republicans AND Democrats.

The commission’s Republicans all voted in July to enable a voter referendum this November that would make future elections for five county constitutional officers nonpartisan. The commission’s two Democrats voted no.

Commissioner Al Higginbotham and his anti-democracy cronies in the Republican ‘Gang of Five’ want voters to believe they can create their own kumbaya moment to ‘fix’ divisive elections in an era of extreme partisanship.

These five Republican commissioners tell us that they want independents to have more of a say by creating nonpartisan elections that choose candidates for sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector, clerk of courts and supervisor of elections.

But many of the passionate volunteers who work so very hard for the Republican and Democratic parties see through this cynical ploy by the GOP’s Gang of Five (Higginbotham, Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Sandra Murman and Stacy White ).

Don’t take my word for it. Opponents of the nonpartisan referendum who spoke out at the commissioner meeting ranged from Hillsborough Democratic Party Chairman Ione Townsend to several local Republican precinct committeemen and committeewomen.

They believe party primaries and party affiliations actually help to make officeholders more accountable to the wishes of voters.

They understand the duplicity of the Gang of Five, who probably think they’re making a clever political calculus to actually increase the chances for Republican candidates to get elected in a county that has turned from red to purple and is in danger of tipping more consistently blue in the coming years.

And Democrat Commissioner Les Miller only added to this circus of cynics by insincerely threatening an untenable amendment that would have added the seven commissioner races to Higginbotham’s non-partisan deception.

Party politics matter. Unlike the Gang of Five, I’m proud to be a Republican and protecting taxpayers through smaller, more efficient government.

The GOP has a successful local, state and national brand of effective policies to run on and can win by continuing to deliver successful government to attract conservatives, as well as Libertarians, Republicans, independents and those Trump Democrats who have been alienated by so-called ‘progressives’ in a party that has shifted so far to the Left.

In fact, Townsend and many others nationally contend that nonpartisan races actually deter people from voting. They say nonpartisan elections lead to a down-ballot drop-off where people only vote for prominent races that usually are on a ballot’s first page.

One national analysis said that “voting on a party basis is easier and more convenient by learning a broad, philosophical agenda of one party and supporting those candidates.”

Non-partisan elections also increase the odds that there will be many candidates who share similar political philosophies. This will split the vote and allow less popular candidates to win.

So much for majority rule.

If independent voters really want to participate, then let them finally emerge from political hibernation instead of just complaining. Let them actually work for a candidate they believe in, donating time and money and even forming another political party if that’s what it takes.

THAT’s Democracy. Politics ain’t Parcheesi. It’s messy and complicated for a reason. 

Yeah, we could be more civil about it and hopefully, we will try to be more often - though our nation has a long and rich tradition of intense, even bitter political competition.

At least contentious politics are better than the alternative. The Civil War proved that.

Ultimately, non-partisan elections may just be another attempt by our county’s so-called leaders to take power away from the voters under the guise of trying to ‘fix’ divisive elections.

I only hope enough voters see through the Gang of Five’s subterfuge and do the right thing this November.

Vote NO on non-partisan elections in Hillsborough County.

Show the Gang of Five who the real bosses are in this county.


Mike Kersmarki is a Republican Committeeman for Precinct 525 in northwestern Hillsborough County and a member of the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee. He is a former business journalist now living in Tampa who worked on the Communications Teams for the 2012 Republican National Convention and the 2008 McCain Presidential campaign. Currently, he is researching a domestic policy book: “Worker’s Party: How Republicans Can Help ALL Americans Achieve Their Full Economic Potential.”