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Saul-Sena gets her day in court

TAMPA — The attorney for County Commission hopeful Linda Saul-Sena conceded Wednesday that her initial resignation from the Tampa City Council wasn't done quite right.

But that shouldn't keep her off the November ballot, he said.

"She nonetheless made an irrevocable decision to resign," attorney Ron Meyer said. "When? During the qualifying period."

Hillsborough County Republicans are trying to get Saul-Sena and fellow Democrat John Dingfelder disqualified as candidates in their respective commission races.

Last week, GOP attorneys failed to convince a circuit judge to boot Dingfelder from the District 1 race for missing a deadline to quit his Tampa City Council post under the state's resign-to-run law. They have appealed Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Levens' decision.

On Wednesday, it was Saul-Sena's turn in court in front of a different judge.

Though Hillsborough Circuit Judge Herbert Baumann said he won't rule in her case until Friday, the candidate left the hearing feeling optimistic.

"I'm confident that I'll be on the November ballot," she said.

Attorney Ryan Christopher Rodems, who represents both of the Republican voters who challenged the two Democrats' candidacies, argued that Saul-Sena's failure to follow the rules should preclude her from running for the countywide District 5 seat.

He said the law requires candidates to resign 10 days before the start of the election qualifying period. This year's deadline was June 4.

Saul-Sena didn't submit her resignation letter until June 15, during the qualifying period. It was supposed to take effect in November when the winners of the commission races assumed office.

Like Dingfelder, she quickly acknowledged the error, resigned from the City Council immediately and withdrew from the county race. With no other candidates, the Democratic executive committee then selected Saul-Sena and Dingfelder as the replacements.

But Saul-Sena couldn't withdraw from a race in which she was never an eligible candidate, Rodems said, and thus there was no vacancy for the Democrats to fill.

"The Democratic Party chose to put all their money on one horse, and that candidate did not meet the requirements," Rodems said.

Meyer argued that Saul-Sena made an effort to resign in a timely fashion, showing substantial compliance with the law.

More important, he said, party officials had the right to appoint her to fill the vacancy, no matter how it occurred.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Saul-Sena gets her day in court 08/11/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 11:44pm]
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