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Sunday, Jan 20, 2019
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Executive director of TBARTA runs for Hillsborough County Commission

TAMPA – Ray Chiaramonte, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, has entered the race for the Hillsborough County Commission District 7 seat.

Chiaramonte filed papers Monday with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections to run as a Democrat. It comes after Commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman, a Republican, announced Friday that she had changed her mind about running for the countywide seat.

Her decision leaves the open seat without an obvious front-runner, an opportunity that Chiaramonte has been seeking.
"I've thought about this for a good part of my life but it seemed like the timing was never right," he said. "Now, at this stage of my career and with the experience I have, I feel like I have something to offer."

Chiaramonte, 68, has an extensive background in planning, a career that began in 1972 and led to stints as executive director of both the Planning Commission and the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

He took over the reins at TBARTA, a regional transportation agency, in 2015. In December, he announced that he would stand down at the end of his current contract, which runs through February. A search is underway to find his replacement.

With his run for office, he may now leave sooner.

"I doubt I will fill my old contract out," he said.

Chiaramonte, who describes himself as a moderate Democrat, said the county is at a critical point in its development of transportation. A seat on the commission would allow him to bring his experience to that debate.

"I think we have support to do something finally and I want to make sure it happens," he said. "It definitely means something other than roads."

Murman, who filed for the District 7 seat in 2017, had been the leading fundraiser with over $180,000. Her decision to drop out and serve out the remaining two years on her District 1 term disrupted the plans of several candidates.

They include Republicans Aakash Patel, a business owner who raised roughly $450,000 to run for Murman's current seat, and attorney Todd Marks, who raised about $80,000. Both now plan to switch to District 7.

Democrats Charles Davis III, Kimberly Overman, Corey Reynolds and Sky U. White and Republican Cherie Denham have already qualified to run for the seat.

The leading fundraiser of that group is Overman with more than $30,000, according to the Supervisor of Elections' website.

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at codonnell@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

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