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Hillsborough Democrats renominate Saul-Sena after she suspends her campaign in the District 5 race

TAMPA — Former City Council member Linda Saul-Sena suspended her campaign for the Hillsborough County Commission on Monday.

Hours later, county Democrats reappointed her as their nominee.

"Everyone is very supportive of her and feels very strongly about her in that position," said Pat Kemp, chairwoman of the county Democratic Party, which had its regularly scheduled meeting Monday. "She's definitely the right woman for the job."

The withdrawal and reappointment are the latest in legal and political maneuvers that started when Saul-Sena missed a June 4 deadline to file election papers indicating she would resign from the council to run for the commission.

Saul-Sena had intended to remain on the council until after the Nov. 2 elections. But after learning of the missed deadline, she stepped down abruptly on June 24, hoping to preserve her candidacy for the countywide District 5 commission seat.

Then earlier this month, Hills­borough County Republicans sued to have her removed from the ballot, saying elections officials should have never qualified her for the race. Hillsborough County elections chief Earl Lennard is also named in the suit.

With Saul-Sena's withdrawal, the Democratic Party was left without a nominee in the District 5 race, which opened the door for county Democrats to renominate Saul-Sena. State law allows a party left with no nominee because a candidate is removed from the ticket to select a replacement.

Former Tampa City Council member John Dingfelder jumped through similar hoops in recent weeks. He also missed the deadline to file his resign-to-run paperwork. He stepped down from the council in June, and then withdrew June 29 from the race for the District 1 County Commission seat.

The next day, local Democrats voted unanimously to put him back on the ballot.

But county Republicans have also filed a lawsuit, saying Democrats don't have the option of replacing Dingfelder because he never properly qualified for the race in the first place.

Arguments in that case have been set for Aug. 3. No court date has been set in Saul-Sena's case.

Saul-Sena waited to follow the same steps as Dingfelder until she had consulted with Tallahassee lawyer Ron Meyer.

"I have good legal counsel, and this is what they advised," Saul-Sena said.

Meyer persuaded a judge to toss from the November ballot a proposed constitutional amendment on redistricting drafted by the Republican-led Legislature. Amendment 7 was developed to counter two proposed amendments from a citizen group.

If Saul-Sena wins the legal challenge, she will face County Commissioner Ken Hagan, a Republican, and Jim Hosler, who is running with no party affiliation, in the race for District 5.

Dingfelder is set to 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.

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

Hillsborough Democrats renominate Saul-Sena after she suspends her campaign in the District 5 race 07/19/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 19, 2010 11:24pm]
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