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Appeals court affirms Dingfelder's Hillsborough County Commission candidacy

TAMPA — Former Tampa City Council member John Dingfelder is officially in the running for Hillsborough County commissioner.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal on Friday affirmed a lower court's ruling that Dingfelder could appear on the ballot. At issue was Dingfelder missing a deadline for filing paperwork indicating he would resign from the council to run for the commission.

The appeals court did not issue an opinion, meaning there is nothing more for Dingfelder's opponents to pursue with a higher court.

"Not only is it great news for me and my family and my supporters, but it's clearly great news for voters because voters deserve to have a choice in November, and they're definitely going to have one," Dingfelder said. "I still acknowledge that I made a mistake, and I've paid for the mistake. But the court clearly acknowledged that we fixed the mistake in a timely fashion, pursuant to the law."

After learning he had missed the deadline, Dingfelder resigned from the council immediately.

He withdrew from the race June 29. The next day, local Democrats voted unanimously to put him back on the ballot.

GOP activist Brian Lothrop sued, saying the missed deadline meant Dingfelder, a Democrat, should not be able to run.

The courts disagreed.

In the general election, Dingfelder will face the winner of the District 1 Republican primary that pits former state Rep. Sandy Murman against Trey Rustmann, a project manager for a personnel firm. District 1 covers Town 'N Country, South Tampa and the eastern shore of south Hillsborough County.

Former Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena, a Democratic candidate for the at-large District 5 County Commission seat, made the same mistake in filing her resign-to-run paperwork. She also resigned from the council, withdrew from the race and was placed back on the ballot by the local Democratic Party.

She, too, was sued by the Republican Party, and a lower court ruled in her favor.

GOP attorney Ryan Christopher Rodems filed an appeal Friday in Saul-Sena's case. Because appellate judges did not write an opinion to explain their decision in the Dingfelder case Friday, the ruling sets no precedent.

"Without a strong guidance from the 2nd DCA in the Dingfelder case, we are left to speculate why they did what they did," Rodems said.

If Saul-Sena withstands the challenge, she will face Commissioner Ken Hagan, a Republican, and former county planner Jim Hosler, no party affiliation, in the general election.

Times staff writer Colleen Jenkins contributed to this report.

Appeals court affirms Dingfelder's Hillsborough County Commission candidacy 08/20/10 [Last modified: Monday, August 23, 2010 1:09pm]
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