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    Rivalry's next step: campaign for House

    With Larry Crow stepping down, two Dunedin politicians with a shaky relationship intend to seek the state House seat.

    By DEBORAH O'NEIL

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 15, 2001


    DUNEDIN -- The state House race for the district long represented by Larry Crow will include two Dunedin elected officials with a historically rocky relationship.

    City Commissioner Janet Henderson says she intends to vie for the House 49 seat against Mayor Tom Anderson. Don Sullivan, a Largo state senator facing term limits, is also running.

    Crow, who was first elected in 1994, cannot run in 2002 because of term limits.

    District 49 snakes from Tarpon Springs to Pinellas Park, including most of Dunedin and parts of Palm Harbor, Clearwater and Largo.

    The oddly shaped district is expected to be redrawn by the Legislature next year during the redistricting based on the 2000 census. Henderson and Anderson, both Republicans, said they expect the district to lose its south county tail, which would put Sullivan in a different district.

    Sullivan was on vacation this week and could not be reached.

    Henderson, 57, said she plans to formally kick off her campaign and open an account in the fall. Anderson, 68, has raised $20,000 from more than 200 contributors since April.

    If Sullivan is left out because of the redistricting, the race will shape up as a duel between two local politicians with contrasting styles and different social circles.

    Anderson is Dunedin's popular three-term mayor who has made his mark improving services for the city's elderly. Henderson is in her second term on the City Commission and is well-connected in local business and arts communities from her volunteer work in civic organizations.

    Henderson, who is married to Clearwater businessman Phil Henderson, said she is not concerned about the jump Anderson has on fundraising. She said she has been advised that she will need $55,000 to $75,000 for a state House race.

    In her last commission race, Henderson ran a sophisticated campaign and raised thousands of dollars. She said she plans to work with political consultants Repper and Garcia in the District 49 race.

    "I'm not anticipating a problem raising money," Henderson said. "I think I have a lot of support, and I didn't have a difficult time raising money last time I ran."

    Anderson said Henderson's venture into the race surprised him and will make him work even harder.

    "She'll be able to raise a lot of money," Anderson said. "She has some very wealthy friends. What I will have is more voters and more individual supporters and fewer very high contributors."

    The two have clashed more than once on the commission. In 1998, Anderson publicly criticized Henderson for missing commission meetings. Henderson said most of time she was away on city business and said the mayor had no place commenting on her attendance. The icy relationship continues to this day. The two do not socialize. Whether their competition for a state House seat will create tension on the commission during the next year and a half remains to be seen.

    "I don't think it should impede us from doing our job," Henderson said. "Those of us on the commission don't have to be friends socially in order to work together."

    Anderson said it could be awkward.

    "It's going to make things a little uncomfortable," he said.

    Both Henderson and Anderson will have to step down from the City Commission seats in November 2002 when the new state House representative is sworn in. City Clerk Sandra Woodall said the three-member commission will then appoint a mayor and another commissioner to fill the remainder of their terms until the February 2003 election.

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