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Tampa City Council chairman expected to run for mayor

TAMPA — Voters won't go to the polls to elect a new Tampa mayor until 2011, but jockeying has already begun for the post.

Among those likely to be on the ballot: Tampa City Council Chairman Tom Scott, Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita and City Council member Linda Saul-Sena.

Scott has scheduled a news conference "about his political future" for Monday. He's widely expected to announce a run for mayor, though he declined to confirm that Thursday.

"A lot of people have been asking questions about my intent. I look forward to sharing that on Monday and put everybody's mind to rest," he said.

Last week, Ferlita updated the status of her Facebook page with talk of the mayor's race.

Here's part of what she wrote: "It will be a tough race, but we're ready for that. We'll work hard and we will accomplish lots of stuff for our city. We'll have fun as we accomplish the things we need to accomplish. Thanks for your early support. Send names and contact info if you'd like."

Ferlita, a pharmacist, served two terms on the City Council before she was elected to the County Commission in 2006. She has a reputation as a sometimes verbose, tough talker, with an interest in public safety, animal services and code enforcement.

Mayor Pam Iorio is term-limited out of the position she first won in 2003. She is considering a run for the Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez in 2010.

Linda Saul-Sena, who has served nearly two decades on City Council, said she will formally announce plans to replace Iorio closer to Election Day.

"I'm listening to what people's concerns are and working to be an effective council member," said Saul-Sena, who is best known for her support of historic preservation and protecting the environment.

Former City Council member Bob Buckhorn also is said to be considering jumping into the race. But Buckhorn, who raised his profile by leading a successful charge to ban lap dancing in the city, said this week that it's too soon to reveal his plans.

And then there's former Mayor Dick Greco, who served as Tampa's chief executive in the 1970s and then again from 1995 to 2002. He publicly toyed with the idea of running against Iorio in 2007, then held a news conference to declare he would not challenge her.

But his name is circulating in the rumor mill as a potential candidate once again.

"This is a very strange thing. In the last three or four months, I have had more people ask me to run for mayor than at any other time in my life," said Greco. "But it would be too early even for me to think about it."

Greco is working on his memoirs with the help of Tampa writer Paul Guzzo.

After Monday's news conference, Scott is likely to be the first significant candidate to formally declare a bid to replace Iorio.

Marion Lewis, a former Tampa police captain who was forced to resign from his city job when he ran against Iorio in 2007, has filed to run. That means the first two official candidates for the Tampa mayor's race will likely be African-American.

Scott, pastor of the 34th Street Church of God for 29 years, served as a Hillsborough County commissioner from 1996 to 2006. He distinguished himself there as an advocate for affordable housing. He was elected to the City Council in 2007, where he has pushed to improve the city's record of awarding contracts to minority-owned businesses.

Reach Janet Zink at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa City Council chairman expected to run for mayor 04/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 30, 2009 11:39pm]
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