TAMPA — With no debate, the Hillsborough County Democratic Party on Wednesday put former City Council member John Dingfelder back in the race for a Hillsborough County Commission seat.
"John deserves our unanimous support," party chairwoman Pat Kemp said before the vote at the emergency meeting that drew about 100 people. "He has been an excellent City Council member for the past eight years, and he will serve us well on the county commission."
Dingfelder, who did not attend the meeting, withdrew from the District 1 race Tuesday in hopes of avoiding a legal challenge from county Republicans. They say he shouldn't be on the ballot because he missed a deadline for turning in papers to the supervisor of elections indicating he would resign from the council after the November election.
With Dingfelder removed from the ballot, the party was left with no nominee. In such situations, state law allows the party to select a candidate.
After Dingfelder received a motion and a second for the post, Kemp asked three times for additional nominees. No names were mentioned, and members voted unanimously for Dingfelder. That vote was followed by unanimous votes of the steering committee and executive committee.
The entire process took 15 minutes.
"You all have done a great job here tonight," Kemp said.
Republican Party officials say they plan to fight Dingfelder's candidacy as well as that of former City Council member Linda Saul-Sena, who is running for the countywide District 5 commission seat. Saul-Sena also missed the deadline for filing her resign-to-run papers. Her campaign manager, Mark Nash, fielded a question from a party member at Wednesday's meeting about whether she intended to withdraw from the race and seek an appointment to the ballot as Dingfelder had done.
"We're on the ballot," Nash replied. "The state has recognized that as well as the county."
Saul-Sena is running against Commissioner Ken Hagan, a Republican, and Jim Hosler, who is running with no party affiliation.
Dingfelder will face the winner of the 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 edge of south Hillsborough County.
Janet Zink can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3401.