Fresh Faces

Ten up-and-coming politicos who could rock 2006.

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That makes John Little a go-to guy for candidates in Pinellas County. Little, 41, is the president of the Pinellas County Council of Firefighters, a 17-year veteran of the firehouse and a savvy — and passionate — political operator. He'll help navigate the rank-and-file's support, especially in the pivotal Pinellas House races, where a firefighters' endorsement or grassroots assistance can make a big difference.

More importantly to firefighters and taxpayers alike, Little is a key player in the fight over consolidating fire departments in Pinellas County. Pinellas is a patchwork of 19 different departments, and the county has tried for years to combine them into one, arguing it would save as much as $18 million a year. Little has helped beat back those attempts.

"Its sort of like Groundhog Day," Little says, referring to the Bill Murray movie. "Every three years this comes up. They never change their approach."

Little insists, however, that the union's opposition is not to consolidation per se; firefighters are concerned about their jobs and benefits, sure, but the bigger concern is the lack of a plan by county officials for how those savings would be realized without cutting the level of service to taxpayers who want a firefighter or paramedic at their emergency in the quickest possible time.

9. Democratic war vet, part two.

OK, I'm going to fudge a little bit on this one. Stephen Gorham, a Democrat running in the Republican Senate district now held by Tom Lee, will likely be underfunded and underexposed compared with the Republicans in that race (like Sandy Murman).

But he deserves attention.

Gorham is bright, enthusiastic and running because he cares about the future of a state where he is raising a young daughter. He's also a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, having been deployed in support of both as a member of the U.S. Navy in the Mediterranean. But those things don't always matter in the money- and partisan-fueled campaigns in Hillsborough.

But the Plant City resident, who is the director of networking and telecommunications at Hillsborough Community College, stays upbeat.

"Things are going great," Gorham said. "We're out there raising hell and we're getting a lot of attention."

10. Moving up from St. Pete City Council.

As a St. Petersburg City Council member, Rick Kriseman is not exactly a new face. But he's leaving that august body to run for the Florida House, and he promises to be a rising star for Tallahassee Democrats who could use a few heroes.

Kriseman was first given national prominence by the Democratic Leadership Council, which pimped him in 2004 as its "New Dem of the Week" for his work in creating a loan program that helps new police officers buy homes in St. Petersburg. He later made that group's "100 to Watch" list, joining state Rep. Bob Henriquez as its only Tampa Bay members.

He's running for the House of Representatives seat now held by Charlie Justice (who is leaving to run for the Senate), and he's already got a lengthy supporter list, which includes former House Speaker Peter Rudy Wallace and rising Florida Democratic star Dave Aronberg from West Palm Beach.

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