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March: Minority newcomers likely to face off in state House 59 primary

Two Democratic minority women, both political newcomers, are likely to face each other in a primary for the state House District 59 seat held by Ross Spano.

Golnaz "Naze" Sahebzamani, International Baccalaureate social studies teacher at Robinson High School, filed July 9.

Likely to file is Rena Frazier, a commercial litigation and real estate lawyer who says she is "seriously considering" the race.

Sahebzamani may be able to count on support from an important Democratic constituency. She's a board member of the Florida Education Association teachers union.

Frazier is a University of South Florida and Stetson Law School grad who is married to former USF basketball star Anddrikk Frazier, a former TECO official who now runs an alternative fuels company.

Democrats say the Brandon/Bloomingdale/Valrico district is about 30 percent black and Hispanic, and it's on their list of a dozen or so GOP-held seats that could swing Democratic in a presidential year, though not at the top of that list, like Shawn Harrison's District 63 in Carrollwood, New Tampa and Lutz.

Frazier said D59 is winnable, noting Spano edged Gail Gottlieb by less than 2 percent to win the seat in 2012.

However, he held it easily, 58-42 percent, over Donna Lee Fore in 2014.

Landing a new job

In 2009, after 24 years with the Tampa Sports Authority, 12 as executive director, Henry Saavedra was forced out by the board's executive committee, led by then-chairman Vin Marchetti.

The move was interpreted by some as an attempt by county appointees on the authority board to gain more control.

After several years in private practice as a CPA, Saavedra has now landed as chief of finance and human resources in the office of Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Craig Latimer.

Latimer said Saavedra is "very well qualified and I'm happy to get somebody who's familiar with government budgets."

Complaint hearing

A decision won't come until the August state GOP board meeting on the party grievance filed against local GOP activist E.J. Otero, but following a hearing last week, county party chairman Deborah Tamargo portrayed the matter as a misunderstanding and expressed confidence nothing will come of it.

The grievance was filed by Kelso Tanner, campaign worker for Tampa City Council candidate Jackie Toledo, a Republican, because Otero supported Tommy Castellano, an independent, against her. Tanner alleged that support violated party rules.

But at least one other prominent Republican also gave Castellano a contribution — sort of: Tamargo.

She gave Castellano $50 in June 2014, but the contribution was refunded in January, shortly after Tamargo was elected party chairman.

Otero wouldn't predict the outcome of the grievance, but said, "My principles remain intact."

Racial relations

Black community leaders discussing race relations at last week's Tampa Tiger Bay Club event took some shots at Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the controversial bicycle enforcement policy in black neighborhoods.

Samuel Wright, an education activist and former University of South Florida administrator, said Buckhorn has suffered among blacks in Tampa by comparison to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Wright said Kriseman "immediately moved to diversify his staff" after being elected — an apparent reference to Deputy Mayor Tamika Tomalin — while Buckhorn hasn't named a high-level, inner-circle black aide.

Buckhorn called that "absurd," saying he has the most racially diverse city administration ever, naming police Chief Eric Ward, fire Chief Thomas Forward, CFO Sonya Little and half a dozen black administrators and department heads.

"They may not be at every press conference, but they are in powerful positions running real departments," he said.

William March can be reached at

March: Minority newcomers likely to face off in state House 59 primary 07/22/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 22, 2015 9:34pm]
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