Council approves rule that will keep Dingfelder, Saul-Sena out of Tampa's March elections
Tampa City Council on Thursday approved a new rule prohibiting council members who leave office before their term is finished from being a council candidate in the next city election cycle. That means John Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena, who resigned from the council to run for Hillsborough County Commission but lost in Tuesday's elections, can't try to get back on the board during the city's March elections.
Council member Charlie Miranda came up with the idea earlier this year after Dingfelder and Saul-Sena announced their commission runs, but it was rejected by a 4-3 vote in May. Among the no votes at the time: Dingfelder and Saul-Sena. Council member Joseph Caetano last month suggested bringing back Miranda's proposal, and Curtis Stokes seconded the motion. Stokes was appointed to replace Saul-Sena on the council and has said he plans to run for the council in March, possibly Saul-Sena's seat.
But Caetano, who often showed obvious frustration with Dingfelder and Saul-Sena when he served with them on the council, said the rule isn't about any particular person.
"This will expand participation of new people who want to become City Council members. They will have new ideas, new blood. It will diminsh the power of incumbency," he said. "This will reduce the opportunity of people who want to game the system."
Council member Mary Mulhern said she has heard from voters who don't like the rule. She said she would support changing term limit regulations to require people to sit out an election after serving two consecutive terms in a seat. That would keep people from skirting the law by switching between district and at-large seats.
"But to tell someone who only served one term, to say you can't come back and serve a second term, it doesn't seem fair," she said.
The ordinance passed by a 4-2 vote, with Mulhern and Yvonne Capin, who was appointed to replace Dingfelder on the council, voting no, and Miranda absent.