TAMPA — Former local television consumer affairs reporter Eric Seidel filed Monday to run as a Republican for Hillsborough County clerk of court.
If Seidel becomes the GOP nominee, he could benefit from what might be a bitter Democratic primary fight between incumbent Clerk Pat Frank and Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who recently announced his campaign for the seat.
Seidel, 52, worked for 19 years as a consumer affairs lawyer and reporter at WTVT-Ch. 13, creating and hosting the station's "Ask-a-Lawyer" program. He left in 2010.
Since then, he has been in private law practice, specializing in consumer issues, and now works for the McIntyre Thanasides firm.
"I've had a consumer advocacy orientation all these years and that's something I want to do in the clerk's office — make it more consumer-friendly," he said in an interview.
Seidel said the Democratic primary is "a non-issue for me, because the folks who I am reaching out to and those who will be voting for me will be doing so … because of my history of helping people and my focus on making the clerk's office more effective and efficient for consumers."
But Mark Proctor, a political consultant working with Seidel, said the possibility of a primary fight "leaves a crack in the door."
"If it's nasty and bitter, obviously that could help whoever the Republican nominee is," he said. "If it's Kumbaya at the end, it might not make any difference."
Seidel might have faced a tough primary of his own. No other Republican has filed for the office, but county Commissioner Victor Crist was widely known to be considering a run.
Crist said Monday that he was interested in the office when he thought Frank was retiring, but since she intends to stay, "I've backed away from it, out of respect."
He said he'll file papers soon to run for the District 5 countywide commissioner's seat.
Seidel said via email, "I am not concerned with the potential for others to get in the race, because I'm here to do the best job I can for the residents of Hillsborough County."
For two years, Seidel has been a member of the Clerk's Value Adjustment Board, which hears appeals of property tax assessments. He has served on charity boards, including Hands Across the Bay, and organizations serving children with special needs.
Seidel is a newcomer to politics; he hasn't run for office or been involved in party activity and has no significant history of political donations.
He said he has long been registered as a no-party voter and stayed out of politics to maintain neutrality as a journalist, and recently changed his affiliation to Republican for the race.
Seidel said he plans an announcement tonight at a meeting of the Greater Brandon Republican Club.
Seidel and his wife, Dayle Seidel, an assistant attorney general in Tampa, have one son. Seidel got his law degree in 1991 at Nova Southeastern University.
The clerk's job pays $159,202 a year.