Tampa, FL -- Candidates for Hillsborough County Commission laid out their views on climate change, racial justice, and COVID-19 response at a candidate forum organized by Food & Water Watch, Mi Familia Vota, The CLEO Institute, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Restorative Justice Coalition, Alliance for Climate Education, GreenFaith, and Our Climate. Last night’s virtual forum was attended by 5 candidates from the District 3 County Commissioner race — Bishop Thomas Scott, Former Tampa City Councilmember Frank Reddick, Sky White, Gwen Myers, and Rick Fernandez; and 2 candidates from the District 1 race — Jen McDonald and Former Tampa City Councilmember Harry Cohen. All candidates in the Hillsborough County District 1 and 3 races were invited to attend the forum.
Climate change and an equitable renewable energy transition featured prominently in last night’s discussion. When candidates were asked if they would support transitioning Hillsborough County towards 100% renewable energy -- as well as how they would lessen the burden of climate impacts, particularly on frontline Black and Brown communities -- all responded that they supported a rapid countywide transition to 100% renewable energy. However, not all candidates were willing to commit to the 2030 deadline. Rick Fernandez (District 3) and Harry Cohen (District 1) both committed to supporting a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy, but Fernandez set 2040 as his ideal year of completion, and Cohen agreed the transition should happen as quickly as possible but wouldn’t commit to a date.
“It’s great to see so many candidates for Hillsborough County Commission recognize the need to shift away from dirty fossil fuels and onto a 100% renewable energy future,” says Michelle Allen, Florida State Director for Food & Water Action/Food & Water Watch, and one of the moderators for last night’s event. “Hillsborough County stands to face extreme climate impacts including sea level rise which will wreak havoc on the County’s infrastructure and dangerously hot temperatures posing a public health threat. Our state and federal leaders have failed to take meaningful action on the climate crisis so it’s heartening to see candidates for local office ready to take the matter into their own hands.”
Candidates also answered questions on over-policing in Black and Immigrant communities. Mi Familia Vota asked the candidates about whether they would commit to urging the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department to not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Several candidates took a stand to protect immigrant communities in Hillsborough by committing to stand up to the Sheriff and do everything they can to stop the tyranny of our detention and deportation machine that is breaking up families and hurting our county,” says Debbie King, an organizer with Mi Familia Vota. “The County Commission is tasked with keeping our community safe. We urge those candidates who did not see it as their role to use any and all tools to ensure our safety, reconsider and ensure the Sheriff does not abuse his office.”
Candidates also answered questions about how they would use their leadership to lead the County towards an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, how they would prioritize the County budget to support communities through resources instead of through over policing, and if they would fight to ensure costs of climate change doesn't fall on residents and instead place that burden on the main offender, the fossil fuel industry. The full recording of the forum is available here. The primary election for Hillsborough County Commissioner seats will take place August 18, 2020.