Tampa Police demonstration mars Linda Saul-Sena's campaign announcement

In her official short speech announcing her candidacy, Saul-Sena also referenced the shism between the city and county government, saying, "for too long, the County has behaved as if the city was the donut hole, and they were the donut.  I will work to change this wasteful system."  When asked to elaborate on that, she did not use the catch-all word "consolidate", but seemed to be suggesting that would be the way for two local governments to save money.  "I spoke to city staff, and they said there just hasn't been leadership from the County that's encouraged them to do things like fleet maintenance, like collaborative purchasing.  There many opportunities where we could save our  limited resources by collaborating, and that's at the top of my list.  And there are areas where the County pretends that we(the city) aren't here."

She refused to speak about her probable GOP opponent in the race come November, Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan, but campaign manager Mitch Kates wasn't so shy, but was brief.  "Ken Hagen is in for a pretty big fight," were the extent of the comments from Team Saul-Sena today of the current Commission Chair, who has been busy fund-raising for his first Countywide race ever.

When asked about what it will take to win such a large space of territory that is Hillsborough County, she said, "I am prepared to raise a lot of money.  It will take a lot of money. I'm going to go to all the folks who have seen me, and ask (for money).  It's challenging and doable.  Alex Sink is raising $30 million.  $30 million would be pretty daunting to me.  I figure $300,000, I can do this. "

She may have to, as recent campaign finance numbers show Hagan already over $200,000

Campaign Manager Mitch Kates successfully guided newcomer Kevin Beckner to a Countywide victory over Brian Blair in 2008.  He told CL that he believes some of dynamics that helped in Beckner's victory will be similar for the Davis Islands resident.

" Kevin's appeal went beyond just the city of Tampa," Kates said.  "If you look at the results, he did well county wide.  I think the residents of Hillsborough County , are hungry for good solid leadership.  I think in the last election cycle, they showed that they were not happy with the status quo.  I look forward to Linda doing well, not just in Tampa, but county wide."

Among the many supporters at Union Station for the announcement was Sulpher Springs activist Ed Ross, who said  "I think a lot of people are realizing that the things that Linda represents affects everybody in a positive way. "  When asked if he thought Kevin Beckner's success shows that a Democrat, if not a liberal one at that, can win in the County, Ross talked down the partisanship angle in the campaign.

"It's not a liberal/conservative debate as opposed to what we have to do to be a sustainable community.  And so far, from the policies in the past that have done a lot of damage to our community, and put us way behind where we could be, I think she has those visions to get us to where we need to be.  It's time to put labels aside, and look at what we need in Hillsborough County, and she has that experience with City Council, to get the Council and Hillsborough working together, and we need that, because we haven't had that since I've been here going back to the 1960's (laughing)."

Also seen at the event today was the Sierra Club's Phil Compton, Hillsborough County Democratic Party activist Susan Smith, State House candidate Pat Kemp, bicycle advocate Alan Snel, and perennial County Commission public speaker Vivian Baca.

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."

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