Do you want to know what's happening heading into the 2018 elections? One of the best ways to stay informed on Tampa politics and issues is by attending candidate forums. The Tampa Tiger Bay Club hosts monthly luncheons featuring candidates, elected officials or programs based on local issues. The organization will host a forum for 2018 judicial candidates on April 20th at The Chester Ferguson Law Center in Tampa. The facility opens for check-in at 11:30 a.m. and the event wraps approximately 1:15 p.m.

Tickets for the luncheon and candidate forum are $25 for Tiger Bay Club members and first-time guests and $35 for non-members who have attended before. The ticket includes a buffet style lunch, the opportunity to interact with the people running for judge in Hillsborough County, and some of the best networking in Tampa Bay. Sponsorship packages and full tables are also available for purchase. 

Tampa Tiger Bay Club is a non-partisan organization that does not directly endorse candidates. The club Board of Directors is split among local Democrats and Republicans with the goal of presenting multiple candidates or both sides of an issue for the public to decide their own opinion. Past programs have featured John Morgan of Morgan & Morgan fame, panel discussion on the #MeToo movement, and debates among candidates for every local elected office.

Photo from Tiger Bay's 2016 School Board candidate forum

"Hillsborough County is ground zero for the politics of the entire nation," current Tampa Tiger Bay Club President Victor DiMaio said. "Tiger Bay is one of the last great opportunities to see all the candidates in a race face-to-face."

Judicial candidates scheduled to appear at the April 20th event are running in three different races: Candidates for Hillsborough County Court Judge, Group 2 are Adam Bantner and Gregory Green; for Hillsborough County Court Judge Group 8 are E. Michael Issak, Jack Gutman and LaShawn Strachan; candidates for Circuit Court Judge, Group 25 are Cissy Boza Sevelin, Starr Brookins, Robin Fuson, and Jamey Moody. These judicial races will be on the August 2018 primary election ballot. The races where no candidate receives a majority will feature a runoff election from the top two finishers on the November ballot. Judicial candidates run without the label of a political party, these elections are open to all voters on the primary ballot.

"This is a rare opportunity to meet future judges, people do not realize how important circuit and county court judges are," DiMaio said. "It also humanizes judges, to a degree, to have to face the voters. These races are just as important County Commission or City Council races. I hope people take the opportunity to size up the candidates and decide who should be sitting on the bench.”

Members are considered "tigers" and ask tough questions of those who want to be elected officials. A committee of Tampa Tiger Bay Club members decides at the end of each meeting who had the best or toughest question of the meeting. If you cannot attend the luncheons but would like to stay informed,  Tampa Tiger Bay Club has a partnership with Tampa Bay Arts and Education Network to record, broadcast and archive the meetings online at

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Cover photo courtesy of author.