Linda Saul-Sena has served on and off the Tampa City Council since 1987. Term limited out next year, for the past year she's been seriously contemplating her political future. Tuesday morning she officially announced from Union Station that she will run for the Hillsborough County Commission this year, opposing Republican Ken Hagen in a County wide seat being vacated by Jim Norman.
Though surrounded by dozens of supporters, many from the arts and environmental communities in Tampa, the event did not go off as picture perfect as Saul-Sena or campaign manager Mitch Kates probably envisioned it.
That's because approximately 20 Tampa Police officers took the opportunity to picket outside the train station, blasting her for her"no" vote for a request by 500 police officers for a step increase last month.
Greg Stoudt is the President of the Tampa Police Benevolent Association. "She's supporting things like the Florida light rail system right now over safe streets here in Tampa, " he said in the bitter chill that has spread over the Tampa bay area in the new decade's first week. "Personally, we're going to do what we can to stop her climb in the political arena. "
The only City Council member who supported the TPD in their request for a step increase was Councilman Joseph Caetano. Mayor Pam Iorio also did not support the increase.
When asked about other candidates who opposed the Police in their salary request, such as John Dingfelder and Thomas Scott, Stoudt said he and his colleagues will be be equal opportunity activists. "We're going to support endorsing candidates who are pro police. We're not into the fair weather friend issues, where you can support us in the good times but not the bad. We've dropped crime 46% in the city over the last 6 years, we had an officer shot on this very street 5 months ago, and the thanks we get is the disrespect from the City Council in the no votes for something very little that we asked for."
When asked about the protests, Saul-Sena said she was surprised, adding, "I've got a great record in terms of supporting our police. I'm proud of Tampa's crime statistics. I've always been a proponent of public safety, I've always had a good rapport with the rank and file and the leadership. So I'm very surprised."