For the second time in two weeks, the embattled campaign of a former Tampa City Council member running for Hillsborough County Commission will be in front of a judge.
On Wednesday, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Herbert Baumann will hear arguments in a lawsuit filed against former Tampa councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena questioning her nomination by the Democratic Executive Committee to run for the Hillsborough County Commission District 5 seat.
Saul-Sena failed to meet the requirement of Florida’s “resign-to-run” law prior to qualifying, causing her to resign both her Tampa post and her candidacy for the commission seat. But after leaving the District 5 race, the DEC nominated her back onto the ballot — citing Florida law that allows for nominations should candidates resign or die.
In a strange twist, Saul-Sena’s Democrat colleague on the Tampa City Council, John Dingfelder — who is also running for Hillsborough County Commission in another district — made the same mistake of not properly resigning. He too resigned both his council post and from the District 1 commission race, only to be nominated by the DEC.
Republican voters in Hillsborough have filed suit against Dingfelder and Saul-Sena saying they’re failing to resign according to the law disqualifies their nominations by the DEC.
Last week, a judge ruled in favor of Dingfelder, saying his resignation from the commission race prior to his nomination made him eligible to stay on the ballot.
The ruling by Circuit Judge William P. Levens could have an effect on Saul-Sena’s hearing this week, even though Levens’ ruling is not binding on Baumann, according to the Tallahassee attorney Ron Meyer.
“This should be resolved just as Mr. Dingfelder’s case was resolved as the facts are the same,” Meyer says. “We will certainly argue Judge Levens got it right.”
Meanwhile, Tampa attorney Ryan Christopher Rodems has filed a notice of appeal with the 2nd District Court of Appeal in the Dingfelder case and plans to argue against Saul-Sena Wednesday.
“It would not be the first time ever if two judges in the same circuit heard similar facts and reached different conclusions,” Rodems says.