CLEARWATER — Less than seven months after joining the Pinellas County School Board, Nina Hayden said Thursday she's running for the state Senate.
Hayden will seek Sen. Charlie Justice's seat. The District 16 election already featured former Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican and former majority leader.
The district, one of Florida's most competitive, is based in Pinellas but includes part of Hillsborough County. Justice, a Democrat, is running for longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Young's post next year.
Hayden, a lawyer in the Public Defender's Office, won the School Board election in November to fill two years left on a term.
"I know there's going to be questions about that, but anybody that knows me, understands me, knows my work ethic," said Hayden, 34, a Democrat who mentored youths before becoming a board member.
Bettering state education policies will be at the center of her campaign, Hayden said.
"I believe there's going to be real change," she said of the Republican-led Legislature. "That doesn't mean looking back at the past, that means bringing in someone who can look to the future."
Latvala, 57, scoffed at Hayden "hopping" from job to job, and said he knows his way around the lawmaking process better.
Hayden's boss, Public Defender Bob Dillinger, a Republican, helped host a fundraiser June 3 for Latvala.
Justice called Hayden a "very sharp candidate" who could be a great legislator. But he held off endorsing her until meeting with her, and said other candidates may change the dynamics of the race.
David DeCamp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4167.