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Thursday, Oct 19, 2017
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Businessman joins commission race

TAMPA — Aakash Patel, a Tampa businessman and Republican, is jumping into an increasingly intriguing race for Hillsborough County Commission.

Patel filed to run late Friday for the District 1 seat, the first Republican to do so. Tampa City Council member Yolie Capin, a Democrat, announced her bid last week.

At 33, Patel said he will be a "younger voice for the community" on the commission. Patel is the president of Elevate Inc., a consulting firm that helps businesses connect within Tampa Bay, and he's known in political circles as a hyper networker.

"We're going to turn the next page," Patel said. "What I'm going to do is bring a voice of reason for my peers."

He said he also brings a unique perspective as the son of Indian immigrants.

"My story is the American dream," Patel said.

District 1 is represented by Commissioner Sandy Murman, who was re-elected last year. But her recent decision to run countywide for District 7 has unexpectedly created an open seat on the commission that's attracting considerable interest.

This is Patel's first foray into elected office, though he has served on numerous boards including a Gov. Rick Scott appointment to the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County. He said he is still researching and listening to constituents on some of the county's hot-button topics, including how to solve the transportation quagmire that has vexed past boards and whether the county should help pay for a Tampa Bay Rays stadium in Tampa.

On transportation, Patel said change is needed to support businesses moving and growing here, and he believes there's a road to consensus, though he doesn't know where that is yet.

"We've gone in circles," he said. "We've confused our bases. There will be a way to fund it within our county, but we need to find the right balance."

Patel is a former employee of the Times Publishing Co.'s Tallahassee bureau, where he worked part time as an editorial assistant while attending Florida State University.

The 2018 election season is already shaping up to be a busy one in Hillsborough County. So far 10 candidates, including four incumbents, have filed for the four scheduled commission races and the one that will be announced once Murman is forced to resign her seat next year.

Contact Steve Contorno at scontorno@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433. Follow @scontorno.

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