Ronda Storms, former Hillsborough County commissioner and state senator known for conservative, controversial stands on moral issues, has announced she's returning to elective politics with a run for eastern Hillsborough's District 59 state House seat.
"My family and I have decided to step forward and make the personal sacrifice necessary" for the race, Storms said in a Facebook posting Friday.
In an interview, she said she has sent filing paperwork to Tallahassee.
"The tipping point" that convinced her to run, she said, was the scandal involving the county workforce board.
She said she's been involved with the board in attempts to help new immigrants and other looking for work in the county.
The Tampa Bay Times has been reporting on multiple investigations of possible misconduct by CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, both run by CEO Ed Peachey, over whether the agencies overstated the numbers of people they helped to find jobs.
"The scandal you're hearing about, it's worse than that," Storms said. "They were wrecking people's lives, not helping people."
Storms, a Valrico Republican, is running for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, who's running for attorney general.
She will enter a primary with Joe Wicker of Dover, an Army veteran formerly deployed to Iraq and home health care agency owner, who narrowly lost in a primary to Spano in 2012.
The district covers most of Brandon and parts of Bloomingdale, Riverview, Valrico, Dover, Palm River and Clair-Mel City.
Wicker already has received support including endorsement from Spano, and county commissioners Stacy White and Al Higginbotham. He had raised $18,392 as of the end of January, and has hired Tom Piccolo, a local political operative with ties to House Republican leadership, as his campaign consultant.
"I welcome her to the race and I'm excited to have a robust debate about what direction we want to take our state," Wicker said.
Storms, 53, said she's not worried about competition.
"I'm not running against anybody, but for the seat," she said.
"This is not my first rodeo. I know how to knock on doors and hammer in signs. I think I'll be OK with the people who are coming out to help me."
She said she's been repeatedly urged to get back into politics since leaving the state Senate in 2012 to run for property appraiser, losing to Bob Henriquez.
She previously served two terms as a commissioner, 1998-2006, and one and a half terms in the Senate starting in 2006.
In 2005, Storms started a kerluffle when she objected to a display of gay-themed books in a county library during a gay pride event, and successfully proposed a policy barring the county from recognizing gay pride events.
She advocated sterilization for people accused of child abuse and cutting off county money for Planned Parenthood.
Since losing the 2012 race, Storms said, she has been been "mom-in-chief" including home-schooling her 9-year-old son, helped her husband run his landscaping business and done volunteer work including the guardian ad litem program.
The couple also have an 18-year-old daughter.
Contact William March at [email protected]