Alvarez bows out of race for mayor
By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD, Times Staff Writer
TAMPA -- When F. Dennis Alvarez considered whether to run for mayor, some of his closest friends advised against it. They worried about his health, reminded him of how punishing politics can be, and warned that his enemies were sure to invoke tales of the scandal-wracked courthouse he once presided over.
Alvarez, Hillsborough's former chief judge, did it anyway, declaring two weeks ago that he would pursue his lifelong dream of being Tampa's mayor. Now, after two heart-related hospitalizations in one week -- the second prompted by dizziness and chest pains at a friend's funeral last Friday -- Alvarez said God himself is sending a message.
"This happened in the house of God," Alvarez said Monday in announcing his withdrawal from the 2003 election. "Not only that, but it was a funeral service. What else do you need?"
Alvarez, 56, has a long history of heart trouble. He suffered a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery while still in his 30s, and in recent years surgeons installed a defibrillator and stents. But Alvarez said that until Jan. 7, three days after he declared his candidacy, he hadn't suffered heart pains since the 1980s.
Alvarez said he is not sure whether his heart condition was exacerbated by the stress of his campaign, which officially lasted little more than a week. He said he wasn't surprised when stories announcing his candidacy were thick with references to the Hillsborough courthouse, which was rocked with scandal in the last two years of his 13-year stint as chief judge.
But Alvarez said he knew how grueling a long campaign would be. "We were going to be knocking on doors three, four, five days a week," he said. Pulling out of the race "was a family decision, with the input of my cardiologist. It's a risk I don't want to put myself in."
Alvarez is married and has two sons, 30 and 13 years old, one from a previous marriage. He announced his resignation from the courthouse in July, ending a Judicial Qualifications Commission inquiry into his handling of the courthouse scandals, which included one judge snooping in another judge's chambers after hours.
Alvarez's resignation leaves two official candidates for mayor, Tampa council members Bob Buckhorn and Charlie Miranda. It also shifts the political landscape for potential candidates such as Frank J. Sanchez, a Tampa negotiation-strategy consultant, who said he will announce soon whether he will run.
"Dennis would have been a formidable candidate," Sanchez said. "With him out of the race, it will certainly be more interesting for me."
-- Christopher Goffard can be reached at 226-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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