In Rubio-Crist battle, GOP allies becomes foes

Members of the Tampa Bay Young Republicans Club say the split between supporters of Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist in their U.S. Senate race has become personal.

"It's sad," said young Republican Dywan Washington, a Rubio backer. Longtime acquaintances from the two camps have stopped speaking, and some (gasp) are even unfriending each other on Facebook.

"A lot of it stems from Charlie Crist supporters believing Rubio should have waited his turn," said club president A.J. Dorsey, also a Rubio backer.

And the Rubio supporters, well, they just don't like Crist's property tax policies and that he supported the federal stimulus package, Dorsey said.

Dorsey and Washington were gabbing last week at a holiday open house at the new campaign headquarters for Shawn Harrison, who's running for the District 60 state House seat.

Harrison, a Republican, served on the Tampa City Council for eight years.

Among those at Harrison's open house: lobbyist Lou Betz; Temple Terrace Mayor Joe Affronti and council member Ron Govin; and former Temple Terrace council member Frank Chillura.

Tampa council hopeful gets new endorsement

Tampa elections aren't until March 2011, but, hey, is it ever too early to boast about your endorsements? Political newcomer Tony DeSisto has collected one from former state Sen. John Grant.

DeSisto is running for the District 4 City Council seat that represents South Tampa. So far, he's the only person who has filed to replace John Dingfelder, who is running for County Commission in 2010.

DeSisto, who recently graduated from the Stetson University College of Law, also has an endorsement from Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe.

Grant served in the Florida Legislature, first as a representative and then as a senator, from 1980 until 2000.

In a news release, Grant said this about DeSisto: "I see in him the same qualities and principles I spent my career fighting for. I see someone with the passion, principles and values to become a great leader for years to come."

Ambler, Norman differ on Hillsborough rail

As the Florida Senate considered a state rail system this month, state Rep. Kevin Ambler sent out a statement from his legislative office touting his vote in favor of the proposal. He also announced that he had joined ConnectUs, a grass roots organization pushing to win federal stimulus money for high-speed rail in Florida.

Could it be Ambler was trying to point out the divide on rail between himself and Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman?

Norman is Ambler's opponent in the Republican primary for the District 12 state Senate seat in 2010. He was one of only two county commissioners to vote against putting a referendum on a sales tax to pay for light rail in Hillsborough on the 2010 ballot. Norman has said he isn't opposed to rail, he just doesn't want to pay for it with a new tax.

"We have to fund it somehow," Ambler said. "At the very minimum, the voters should be given the right to choose if that's how they want to do it."

Ambler likened the federal and state rail initiatives to the development of the interstate highway system 50 years ago. "Hillsborough County has the opportunity to lead the state and show the rest of the state how it's done," he said.

Sara Romeo seeks to join Tampa council

Sara Romeo, a former state representative, has filed to run for the District 1 Tampa City Council seat. Gwen Miller holds the citywide post, but is term-limited out of the seat.

Romeo is executive director of Tampa Crossroads, a nonprofit that provides educational and rehabilitation programs for veterans, the homeless and people struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

She served in the state House from 2000 to 2002. During that time, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and sponsored legislation for a breast cancer awareness license plate that has raised $500,000 for research into the disease. She has owned multiple businesses in Ybor City.

Romeo said she decided several months ago to get back into politics.

"But I was not interested in going back to Tallahassee because I do not want to leave some of the projects I have on board right now, particularly for the homeless veterans," she said.

Romeo said her experience in Tallahassee and Washington, where she successfully lobbied for federal funding for a program for homeless female veterans and their children, will add something unique to the council.

"It would be real helpful to the city to have somebody with that kind of a background, that type of experience on our City Council here," she said.

Navy veteran Joseph Wendt has also filed to run for the seat.

Times staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this report.

In Rubio-Crist battle, GOP allies becomes foes 12/21/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 11:06pm]

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