Deadline past, races take form
By BILL VARIAN, MELANIE AVE and CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD
TAMPA -- After dropping out of the Tampa mayoral race a day earlier, Chris Hart decided Friday to seek a return trip to the Hillsborough Commission, where he will again face a late start in campaigning.
"He called me at 6:30 this morning and said "I've slept on it. Let's do it!' " said state legislator Chris Hart IV, who submitted the paperwork on behalf of his father about two hours before the close of qualifying.
The elder Hart was in Washington Friday but had signed the necessary documents the day before, when he said he was still undecided. Hart said he was running for a commission seat because he wanted to continue tackling the challenges confronting the county, from water supplies to transportation.
He joins 22 other candidates vying for the six commission seats up for election -- all of them contested. Hart had to leave his current at-large commission seat because of term limits. He will now face four other candidates for the District 1 seat representing south and west Tampa.
The crowded commission races are the exception in Hillsborough County, where many of the incumbents garnered token opposition, if they faced any at all. State Sens. Tom Lee, Les Miller and Victor Crist received free passes Friday. So did state Rep. Johnnie Byrd, School Board member Candy Olson and 25 judicial candidates.
Democrat Michael Steinberg, a candidate for the state House District 47 seat that represents Carrollwood, had a much tougher day.
Steinberg sent his qualifying papers to Tallahassee via overnight mail Wednesday, leaving him one day to spare before the end of the qualifying period.
He would need every minute of it, and then some.
The papers ended up in Fort Lauderdale by mistake. Federal Express assured him that it would get his package to Tallahassee by 8 a.m. Friday, well before the noon deadline.
Steinberg mailed another set of papers Thursday just to be sure. He also sent his campaign consultant, Vic DiMaio, to Tampa International Airport so he could catch a flight to Tallahassee if necessary.
Both packages were routed through the FedEx hub in Memphis and placed on the same plane. It crashed Friday morning at the Tallahassee Airport. The plane's contents were destroyed and the airport was closed to incoming traffic.
"It was the perfect storm," Steinberg said. "Everything went wrong that could possibly go wrong."
An uneasy DiMaio was able to hop another flight Friday night.
Provided he makes the deadline, which was extended a day for those affected by the crash, Steinberg still has to beat six other candidates seeking the state House seat. They are Democrats Lynn McGarvey and Charles Safarik, Republicans Keven Ambler, Jill Collins and Bill Mitchell and Libertarian Robert Schwartzberg.
Another sizable bunch is seeking the South Tampa District 57 seat vacated by the younger Hart, a Republican who is leaving the seat to spend more time with his family. They include Republicans Faye Culp, Jim Johnson and Marcos Lorenzo, Democrat Scott Farrell and Libertarian Tyson Richmond.
State Rep. Sandy Murman, R-Tampa, is facing token opposition while Democrat Sara Romeo will again battle Temple Terrace surgeon Ed Homan, this time in a district that has been reshaped to make it tougher for her to win.
The region's state senators drew little opposition.
Eight candidates ranging from parental activists to retired administrators qualified Friday to run for three open School Board seats this fall. The campaigns will follow a year of investigations into school district operations and allegations of waste and fraud.
The makeup of the board will change by at least one face because longtime member Joe Newsome of District 4 is not seeking re-election after 24 years on the board. Two other incumbents are facing challengers.
School Board seats not up for election this year are Glenn Barrington's District 1, Jack Lamb's District 3, Doris Ross Reddick's District 5 and Carol Kurdell's District 7.
Here's a snapshot of the three open races and candidates:
DISTRICT 2: Two-term board member Candy Olson is running unopposed for District 2, which includes southern Hillsborough County. Olson, 54, is a former grant writer and stockbroker who has already raised $13,560 toward securing her seat for a third term.
DISTRICT 4: Four candidates are hoping to replace Newsome in the District 4 seat in eastern Hillsborough.
The field consists of Jennifer Faliero, 39, a first-time candidate and parent volunteer; Larry Martin, 68, a retired school administrator; Cliff Roberts, 41, a parent and engineer; and John Werner, 50, a retired supervisor of professional standards for the school district.
Martin, who was recruited by Newsome, has raised more than any School Board candidate so far, $20,136.
DISTRICT 6: For the District 6 countywide seat, two-term incumbent Carolyn Bricklemyer, 55, is being challenged by Melissa Hernandez, 35, a parent and substitute teacher and Lynn Isaacson, 34, a corporate trainer, sales manager and singer.
Bricklemyer's campaign war chest of $9,635 dwarfs both Hernandez's and Isaacson's.
Hart senior says his decision to run for the District 1 seat is rooted in media inquiries about whether he could make the move legally without violating term limits. He said he was assured by county officials this week that he could.
Gene Wells, a computer parts store owner who is Hart's Republican opponent in the primary, said Hart was still violating the spirit of term limits.
"Mr. Hart had supported the term limits' intent," Wells said. "He apparently has changed his mind on that issue."
Also running in District 1: Land use attorney Kathy Castor; John Dingfelder, who has worked as an assistant county attorney and an assistant public defender; and Mimi Kehoe Osiason, a businesswoman and civic activist.
In District 2, which represents northern Tampa, Republican Denise Lasher, the leading fundraiser, arrived about a half-hour before the qualifying period ended to submit her paperwork. She faces Denise "Dee" Layne, who, like Lasher, is from Lutz, Ken Hagan and Jim Davison on the Republican side. Plumber Ron Dyser is the only Democrat in the race, which is rounded out by Rod Gaudin, who owns a barbecue restaurant.
In District 3, Republican Jacquie Knight managed to round up the nearly $5,000 she needed to qualify after her petition signatures were ruled invalid this week.
"So this means I'm on the ballot?" Knight asked as she turned in her check. The answer was yes, which means she faces Democrat incumbent Tom Scott.
Public access television producer Charles "White Chocolate" Perkins, who attracted commission attention for obscene programming, said he was dropping out to pursue a career making adult videos.
In District 4: Democrat Anthony Pawlicz dropped out, leaving only Republicans Ronda Storms, the incumbent, and Arlene Waldron, a banker and first-time candidate. That means the race between them becomes an open primary, in which all voters, not just Republicans, get to vote.
In the at-large, District 5 contest: A couple of people added their names on the non-Republican side: Robert Wirengard, a frequent speaker at commission meetings who is running without party affiliation, and write-in candidate Jeri Kirby of Brandon. Democrat Susan Valdez also qualified.
Some political observers think the Republican primary between sitting Commissioners Stacey Easterling and Jim Norman might get bloody enough to wound the survivor.
Finally, in District 5, incumbent Pat Frank faces HARTline bus system spokesman Ed Crawford on the Democratic side. Former wrestler and Gold's Gym owner Brian Blair goes up against the winner.
Among the 27 circuit and county Hillsborough judges seeking reelection this year, only two face opposition. County Judge Eric Myers is being challenged by lawyer Gary S. Dolgin, while County Judge Cheryl Thomas faces opposition from lawyer Anthony Arena.
Both Myers and Thomas, who were appointed to the bench by Gov. Jeb Bush, are African-American. That only their races are contested has provoked dismay in some circles, including among members of the George Edgecomb Bar Association, which hosted a rally in May to stave off what they feared was the targeting of Hillsborough's black jurists.
Along with those races, candidates are vying for three open circuit court seats this year. Lawyers Kevin Carey and Walter Foster are seeking the seat vacated by retiring Judge Donald Evans. Lawyers Martha Cook, Carlos Pazos, and Ken Whalen are contending for the seat vacated by Judge Florence Foster, who left the bench after a downturn in her battle with multiple sclerosis.
In the busiest judicial race, lawyers Ray Brooks, Woody Isom, Monica Sierra and Brad Souders are chasing a circuit seat that was recently created by the Legislature.
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