TAMPA — Democrat Pat Kemp has qualified by petition to run in the special election for the District 58 state House seat.
And on the Republican side, one candidate — Hunter Chamberlin — has filed for the race.
Democrat Michael Scionti resigned from the post this month to take a job with the Department of Defense.
Kemp, who is taking a leave of absence from her duties as chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party to run for the seat, needed just 36 hours to collect the 174 signatures required to meet Tuesday's 5 p.m. deadline.
Her supporters hit the ground running in her Seminole Heights neighborhood, as well as West Tampa and Town 'N Country.
"It was the most exciting thing ever," she said. "Everybody was racing the clock and we ran down there at 4:45 because we had to have them in at 5. It was really a team effort."
That frees Kemp from having to pay a $1,915 filing fee by the Dec. 29 candidate qualifying deadline.
In the primary election Jan. 26, Kemp will face businesswoman and Democratic fundraiser Janet Cruz Rifkin, security guard Jose Vazquez and lawyer Gil Sanchez.
Sanchez, who got married on Saturday, is in Thailand on his honeymoon. His supporters attempted to collect signatures so Sanchez could qualify by petition for the race, but they came up short, said campaign manager Shawn Mattox.
"We probably talked to 1,600 people telling them there's an election on Jan. 26 that they might not know about and getting Gil's name in the community," Mattox said.
Sanchez largely represents small businesses.
Chamberlin, the only Republican to file to run for the post so far, is a lawyer in a four-person firm. He specializes in civil litigation and previously worked as a criminal prosecutor in Miami. He has lived in Tampa for about five years, two of them in the Seminole Heights neighborhood that is part of District 58.
As a state lawmaker, he would fight unfunded mandates from Washington he said.
"There's going to be a big desire for state legislatures, and in particular the Florida state Legislature, to resist federal dictates," Chamberlin said. "Health care is one of them."
The general election is Feb. 23.
Janet Zink can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.