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Hargrett considers a run for Scott's commission seat

By DAVID KARP

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 19, 2000


TAMPA -- Facing term limits that prevent another run for the Legislature, state Sen. James Hargrett Jr. is considering a run for the Hillsborough County Commission.

Hargrett, who has served in the House and Senate since 1982, said this week he is weighing a run against Commissioner Thomas Scott, a Democrat who represents east Tampa, Seminole Heights and Palm River.

People "are leaning on me heavily," said Hargrett, D-Tampa. "I am still assessing my future."

Hargrett would be a well-known opponent for Scott, whom federal prosecutors are investigating for his role in trying to help a campaign contributor get a lucrative contract at Tampa General Hospital. The contributor gave Scott's church $15,000 at the same time Scott was helping him.

While waiting for a legal challenge to the term limits law, Hargrett raised $83,278 for a Senate re-election campaign.

He abandoned that campaign when the legal challenge was lost, but he could use the money for a commission race after giving contributors a chance to get their money back.

Democrat Betty Reed, a community activist who narrowly lost to Scott in a 1996 primary, already has filed to run again.

Scott, a pastor first elected to the commission in 1996, said Hargrett told him about six weeks ago that he would not run against him. But since then, Hargrett has called some of Scott's supporters to talk about the race, Scott said.

"This is America," Scott said. "He has the right to do whatever he believes."

As for Scott, he intends to run for re-election again. "There are definitely some things I need to clear," he said.

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