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    Dunedin city commissioner to run for state Senate seat

    Commissioner Janet Henderson says state Rep. Mike Fasano is too ''extreme'' for the GOP.

    By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 8, 2002

    Dunedin residents will no longer face a choice between Commissioner Janet Henderson and Mayor Tom Anderson in the race for the District 45 House race this fall.

    That's because Henderson has decided to run for a different office: the District 11 state Senate seat, against Republican state Rep. Mike Fasano.

    Henderson said Fasano, who will vacate the District 45 seat this year, is too "extreme" for the GOP.

    Henderson's candidacy, which she announced this week, is the latest sign of a local intra-GOP feud. In January, term-limited Republican Sen. Jack Latvala also knocked Fasano of New Port Richey for not being "moderate" enough.

    Henderson, 58, said she switched to the Senate race when she realized no one would stand against Fasano.

    She accused Fasano of short-changing public education by supporting tax cuts for the wealthy and turning over "vast tracts of submerged sensitive lands from state ownership to private interests."

    "Mr. Fasano's record resides on the extreme fringe, not in the Republican mainstream," Henderson said in a news release Tuesday.

    "And it certainly doesn't speak well of his ability to move into the Senate and make Florida a better place."

    Henderson said she expects the switch to have little impact on the Dunedin commission. Both she and Anderson must resign in July to run, but the resignations won't take effect until November. Her decision wasn't influenced by the fact that she would have run against Anderson, she said, and she doesn't expect the change to affect their working relationship.

    "We don't have a social relationship; but we can certainly work together, and I think we've done that very well," she said.

    When it comes to name recognition, Henderson, who is in real estate and accounting, might have an uphill fight. West Pasco County residents, who have elected Fasano to four terms in the House, make up 46 percent of the Senate district's population.

    Henderson's home county of Pinellas comprises 37 percent of the district's residents. Hernando and Citrus counties, with 15 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively, make up the rest.

    "I'm going to have a recognition problem at first in Pasco, just like Fasano will have one in Pinellas," she said.

    Fasano, 43, said he expected a challenge for the Sept. 10 primary but assumed the next candidacy would be that of former Pasco Sheriff Lee Cannon, a Democrat who has all but announced his intention to join the race.

    Fasano disputed Henderson's "extreme fringe" label, citing his support among constituents, consumers and those concerned about crime.

    "I have been elected and re-elected in a district that is considered a swing district, a moderate district," Fasano said Tuesday.

    The two candidates, who are little more than passing acquaintances, expect to debate some time before the primary. Henderson said she will strike a pro-education, pro-environment stance.

    "I don't know him personally," she said. "I've heard a lot of stories but don't know him personally."

    Latvala hasn't formally endorsed either candidate, but indications are he'll support Henderson. The outgoing senator is helping run the campaign of Anderson against Fasano's chosen candidate, John Legg.

    -- Staff writer Lisa Greene contributed to this report.

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