Nearly 30 people turned out Tuesday night for a Hillsborough County Young Democrats meeting at Streetcar Charlie's in Ybor City. President Jennifer Fenn told the group it was the largest crowd ever, even though it was a rainy night. Guest speakers were former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis and Florida Senate candidate Nina Hayden, who's running for the seat being vacated by Democrat Charlie Justice. Both speakers told the up-and-coming candidates and campaign workers that sincerity is the key to political success.
Hayden, 35, said that after years of working in the Public Defender's Office representing juveniles charged as adults and serving on the Pinellas County School Board, she wants to help develop policy that will keep kids out of the justice system. She pledged to push for adequate state funding of education if elected. And she said even though she faces a tough race against Republican Jack Latvala, she's not afraid. "I don't mind the fight," she said.
Davis told the youthful group that its members wield enormous influence because they are the future of politics. He also advised them to show respect for Republicans. "A good Democrat is for democracy, not just the Democratic Party," he said.
Among those soaking it in were young Democrat Christopher Mitchell, who's running for the District 47 state House seat, and supporters of Christopher Cano, a 26-year-old candidate for the District 60 seat, who were wearing shirts promoting his Web site, cano460.com.
Naima Tabernuro, 20, said she met Cano last year when he ran for student body president at the University of South Florida. That election, she said, "was a popularity contest. This is purely politics." She said she likes Cano because he would be the "voice of the underdog."
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East Hillsborough County activist and businessman Sam Rashid has been less visible on the political front in recent years. But that may be changing.
Rashid recently sent an e-mail to four of the county's Republican commissioners warning them that the board's vote to put a transit tax referendum on the ballot next year could spawn a backlash.
The e-mail went to the personal accounts of Chairman Ken Hagan, Mark Sharpe, Al Higginbotham and Jim Norman, as well as a dozen or so others who follow county politics. (Higginbotham and Norman voted against the resolution.)
Interestingly, the e-mail singles out Hagan as recommending the 1-cent sales tax increase to pay for rail, buses and roads. So far, much of the push back from conservatives has targeted Sharpe, who has played a more high-profile role in promoting the proposal. But it was a task force created by Hagan that recommended the sales tax referendum, which he has supported.
Rashid said in an interview that he believes Hagan signed a pledge when he first ran for office that he would not support any new taxes if elected.
"I consider the rail tax a brand new tax," Rashid said. "I also consider a vote to move forward with the referendum a vote in support of that tax."
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First-time Tampa City Council candidate Seth Nelson on Friday announced two endorsements: One from Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner and another from former City Council member Shawn Harrison. Nelson, a lawyer, previously worked at Harrison's law firm. He also volunteered for Beckner's County Commission run in 2008. City Council races are nonpartisan, but the endorsements show bipartisan support. Beckner is a Democrat, and Harrison, a candidate for Florida's District 60 House seat, is a Republican.
Nelson is running for the citywide District 3 seat in 2011. Linda Saul-Sena currently holds the post and is term-limited out. So far, no one has filed to run against Nelson.
Times staff writers Janet Zink and Bill Varian contributed to this report.