South Hillsborough Dems get giddy about Saul-Sena, Dingfelder
Democratic Hillsborough County Commission candidates Linda Saul-Sena and John Dingfelder were the guests of honor at a meet and greet in Ruskin on Sunday. Mariella Smith, an environmental advocate and one of the event's organizers, said the group was excited to host the two together and underscore the possibility of changing the tenor of the commission by electing the pair. She told the crowd gathered at the home of Pete and Claudia Davidsen (they live in the house where Backstreet Boy Nick Carter grew up) that Republican candidates Sandy Murman (Dingfelder's opponent in the District 1 race) and Ken Hagan (Saul-Sena's opponent for District 5) were heavily funded by the usual "paradise-paving" developer, phosphate and other industries. Smith said the election of Democrat Kevin Beckner has somewhat loosened the hold of those business interests on the commission, and getting Saul-Sena and Dingfelder elected could create a strong voting block.
When Saul-Sena addressed the group, she touted her work writing community plans, and supporting the arts and environment. She specifically mentioned the Hillsborough County Commission's failure to institute a ban on nitrogen-based fertilizer use in the summer months to protect local waterways. Only Beckner and Rose Ferlita supported that measure.
Dingfelder talked about the commission's Democratic glory days when Phyllis Busansky, Pam Iorio, Ed Turanchik, Jan Platt and Sylvia Kimbell served. And he offered two specific things he'd like to accomplish as a board member: Campaign finance reform that would reduce the contribution cap from $500 to $100 (he tried to do this on the City Council and failed) and a program that would allow the county to buy development rights from agricultural land owners to preserve farmland. In talking about who might provide himself, Saul-Sena and Beckner with a fourth left-leaning vote, he specifically mentioned incoming commissioner Les Miller and Republican incumbent Mark Sharpe, who has won the hearts of Smith and her crew because of his support for the 1 cent transportation tax. Slap of reality here, though: Sharpe voted against the fertilizer ordinance and in favor of the failed, controversial I-4 Green Tech Corridor plan, which would have opened 30 miles of rural land along Interstate 4 to development. Hagan voted against the corridor, one move that Smith said indicates Hagan's willingness to listen to the rural Hillsborough community.
Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer