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Dingfelder challenger gets jump in fundraising

By Times Staff
Published January 18, 2007


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Lawyer Julie Brown is making clear she means business in her bid to unseat John Dingfelder in the Tampa City Council District 4 race.

Brown has raised just more than $76,000 in her first quarter of campaigning. A news release from the Brown camp heralded it as the most money raised for that seat ever. Well, it's the most since at least 1995, the last year for which the Hillsborough County supervisor of elections has numbers handy.

Dingfelder raised just more than $40,000 in his successful run for the City Council four years ago. He has more than doubled that total so far this year.

Brown, 30, declared in October but said she didn't start raising money until December and said she intends to raise $150,000, a sizable sum even for incumbents in City Council races.

The general legal counsel for the Talon Group, a division of the First American Title Insurance Co., she is running on a platform of promoting smart growth and economic development, making City Hall more efficient and upgrading the city's infrastructure. She also is treasurer and president-elect of the League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County.

She qualified by petition.

"I think the constituents want change," she said.

A substantial chunk of Brown's war chest has been built thus far by development and real estate interests. That did not go unnoticed by Dingfelder.

"I know that some developers have been disappointed in me and they've contributed heavily to her campaign," Dingfelder said. "And the neighborhoods should be aware of that, because I'm here for the neighborhoods."

Rep. Castor gets seat on key committees

Newly elected Tampa U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor has scored another key appointment, this one to the Armed Services Committee. She already has been appointed to the powerful Rules Committee.

Castor used the occasion to join the chorus of Democrats and some Republicans blasting the president's planned troop increase in Iraq.

"Escalation of the war in Iraq is out of step with the American people, out of step with my neighbors in Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties and out of step with the generals on the ground," Castor said.

Council fill-in pushes state amendment

The Tampa City Council is scheduled this week to consider a resolution supporting a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban oil and natural gas drilling within 250 miles of Florida's coast.

Chip Fletcher, an environmental lawyer who is serving a temporary gig on the council, brought the resolution to the table last week.

"The main issue is to protect Florida's coast and Florida's economy because so much of Florida's economy is dependent on tourism," Fletcher said.

State Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, sponsored the state Senate joint resolution, which would put the amendment to voters.

The amendment would strengthen a federal rule approved late last year, which allows drilling 125 miles from the Pensacola shore and 235 miles from the Tampa Bay area coast.

Fletcher's time on the Tampa City Council expires after city elections in March.

He holds the seat vacated in November by Rose Ferlita, who resigned to make a successful run for the Hillsborough County Commission. Council member Shawn Harrison, who represents New Tampa, and graphic designer Mary Mulhern are running for Ferlita's citywide seat.

Fletcher said he's enjoying serving on the council but won't seek office in March. That doesn't rule out future political ambitions.

"I'm going to stay involved," he said.

Council candidate lives over the line

Karen Perez's campaign for the City Council lasted six days. On the fifth, the hospice counselor from New Tampa discovered that her neighborhood, Pebble Creek, lies just outside the Tampa city limits. So she withdrew from the District 7 race on Thursday.

"Since I'm not in the city, I'm looking into running for the County Commission," said Perez, 43, who unsuccessfully challenged state Rep. Ed Homan of Temple Terrace in 2004 and 2006. "We'll see, but you definitely will be hearing my name again. The state House is not off the table either."

Perez's withdrawal leaves Frank Margarella, Joe Caetano and Charlie Perkins vying for the seat being vacated by Shawn Harrison.

Staff writers Bill Varian, Janet Zink and Bill Coats contributed to this report.

[Last modified January 18, 2007, 05:48:16]


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