The campaign for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission by a former Tampa City Council member who spent 20 years on the board is now in the hands of a judge.
Hillsborough Commission District 5 candidate Linda Saul-Sena‘s candidacy has been in peril since a Republican filed suit calling for her to be pulled from the ballot as the seat’s Democratic candidate. Saul-Sena has been under fire since failing to resign her position on the Tampa council before the qualifying period, according to Florida’s “resign-to-run” law.
When Saul-Sena learned she missed the deadline, she resigned her seat on the council and resigned from the commission race — only to later be renominated in the race by the Hillsborough Democratic Executive Committee.
Republicans pounced on the mistake, and in court Wednesday argued Saul-Sena could not be nominated by the committee because her failure to resign her Tampa post under the law makes her ineligible, according to Tampa attorney Ryan Christopher Rodems.
“That’s on her,” Rodems said. “The people should lament that the Democratic Party put their money on one horse.”
In a strange twist, Saul-Sena’s colleague on the Tampa council, John Dingfelder, who is running for another Hillsborough County Commission seat, also failed to resign prior to qualifying.
Dingfelder also pulled out of the race before the DEC nominated him back on the ballot. A Republican voter also sued him, but a judge has already ruled Dingfelder can remain on the ballot.
On Wednesday, Saul-Sena’s attorney called on Circuit Judge Herbert Baumann to rule the same as his colleague, Judge William P. Levens, in his client’s case.
Saul-Sena qualified to run for the commission and pulled out of the race when she learned she had not properly resigned, thus her resignation from the race created a vacancy the DEC was within its right to fill, argued Tallahassee elections attorney Ron Meyer.
Meyer said Levens ruled as such in the Dingfelder case and argued that Baumann should follow suit.
“We urge you to follow that leadership,” Meyer said. “Not because it would be a nice thing to do for a colleague, but because he was right.”
Baumann said he would issue a ruling on Saul-Sena’s candidacy Friday. Whatever the ruling, Rodems has filed an appeal with the 2nd District Court of Appeal in the Dingfelder case which is likely to be the ultimate ruling on both matters.