Hillsborough Democratic party chair files to run for Scionti's seat
Pat Kemp, chairman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, has filed to run for the District 58 state House seat. Michael Scionti resigned from the seat earlier this month to take a job with the Department of Defense. Kemp, an attorney and longtime community activist, has worked as an aide to State Rep. Sara Romeo and Congresswoman Kathy Castor. She founded the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association. Her tenure as head of the Hillsborough Democrats has been marked by a new energy and cohesiveness in the organization and a growth in local Democratic clubs.
Of the three people who have filed to run for the post so far, only Kemp lives in the Democratic-leaning district.
Janet Cruz, also a community activist and Democratic Party fundraiser, announced that she would run just hours after Scionti said he was resigning. Her announcement came with a long list of endorsements, including Florida CFO Alex Sink, Castor, former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Charlie Miranda, who represents West Tampa on the City Council, making it seem as if she was Scionti's anointed successor.
Kemp's entry into the race makes it more of a contest, but Cruz said she's unfazed. "I was surprised," she said, but added she welcomes the process. She lives in a waterfront home in South Tampa, but she said she would move to West Tampa the day after the election if she wins.
"My essence, and my roots are in District 58. I walked the streets of West Tampa with Lawton Chiles and Buddy McKay," she said. Family members have lived there for more than 50 years. "I walk into the West Tampa sandwich shop and know every person at every table. West Tampa is not a physicality, it's a way of life," she said. "My heritage is there."
Attorney Gil Sanchez is also running for the post. He helped reactivate the Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus in 2008 and served as its president.
The primary election is Jan. 26. The general election is Feb. 23.