TAMPA — Pat Kemp, chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, has filed to run for the District 58 state House seat.
Michael Scionti resigned from the post this month to take a job with the Department of Defense. A special primary election is scheduled for Jan. 26.
"I know this district well. I live in the community, my children attend our public schools here," Kemp said Monday in a news release. "I shop here, eat at the restaurants and diners, use the library and have my car repaired here. Our neighborhoods — Seminole Heights, Wellswood, West Tampa, Egypt Lake and Town 'N Country — need a representative who knows these communities."
Janet Cruz, a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser, has also announced she is running. Her announcement came with a long list of endorsements, including Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Charlie Miranda, who represents West Tampa on the City Council.
Kemp's entry makes it more of a contest, but Cruz said she's unfazed.
"I was surprised," Cruz said, but added she welcomes the democratic process.
Cruz lives in a waterfront home in South Tampa, but she said she would move into the district the day after the election if she wins.
"My essence and my roots are in District 58. I walked the streets of West Tampa with Lawton Chiles and Buddy McKay," she said. Family members have lived there for more than 50 years.
"I walk into the West Tampa Sandwich Shop and know every person at every table. West Tampa is not a physicality, it's a way of life," she said. "My heritage is there."
Kemp's arrival has caused at least one defection from the list of Cruz's backers. Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern is switching to Kemp. She said when Cruz asked for her endorsement she gave it conditional on who else entered the race.
Kemp, an attorney, has worked as an aide to former state Rep. Sara Romeo and Castor. She helped found the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association.
Lawyer Gil Sanchez has also entered the race, along with Jose Vazquez, who filed to run against Scionti in 2007 while serving time in prison for driving with a revoked license.