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Linda Saul-Sena to challenge Ken Hagan for county seat in 2010

TAMPA — After nearly 20 years as a City Council member, Linda Saul-Sena says she will run for the Hillsborough County Commission in 2010, taking on commission Chairman Ken Hagan.

The Democrat from South Tampa said she'll pursue the countywide seat now held by Jim Norman. Norman is term-limited out of the post and is running to represent District 12 in the Florida Senate.

Saul-Sena had been considering a run for mayor, but said county commissioner "seems like the right role for me. I know that I'm an effective legislator."

As a City Council member, Saul-Sena has been an advocate for the environment, the arts, historic preservation and urban redevelopment.

Hagan, who now represents the district that includes North Tampa, has filed to run for the post in 2010 even though his term doesn't end until 2012. Republican Don Kruse and Libertarian Brandon Newton also are running for the seat.

Saul-Sena said she'll formally announce her candidacy the first week in January at Union Station in downtown Tampa.

She said she chose the spot because it represents some of her top priorities: redevelopment, transportation and historic preservation.

Decades ago as a member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, Saul-Sena helped get the money to renovate the decaying structure.

"That whole area, when you look across the street, there's nothing happening there now and in the next five years there will be wonderful things happening," she said. "As a county commissioner, I will make things happen."

Saul-Sena's entry into the race marks the biggest challenge so far for Hagan, now in this third term on the board.

"In all three of my campaigns, I have had a primary and general election, and I fully planned on the same in 2010," Hagan said. "That's why I've been campaigning and fundraising so hard for the last 10 months."

Hagan has collected more than $201,000 in contributions, according to the most recent campaign finance reports. That's nearly as much as all the other County Commission candidates combined, whose total is about $240,000.

Saul-Sena ran unchallenged in her 2007 re-election bid for the citywide District 3 council seat. She raised only about $15,600, but dropped $50,000 of her own money into her campaign coffers.

In his past two years on the County Commission, Hagan has played a lead role on transportation, pushing to form a task force on the issue. He supported putting a referendum on a 1-cent sales tax to help pay for light rail and bus service on the 2010 ballot after guaranteeing it also would fund road and other nontransit projects.

"Creating jobs, transportation, public safety, parks and recreation and making county government more efficient are my priorities in 2010," Hagan said.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Linda Saul-Sena to challenge Ken Hagan for county seat in 2010 12/23/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 11:36pm]
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