Dingfelder considers return to Tampa politics
TAMPA - Former Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder is considering another run for council in the March elections. The move would force him to challenge a new city law requiring members who resign early to sit out a four-year term before they run again. Dingfelder, who lost a bid for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission earlier this month, said if decides to run again he would seek the District 1 citywide seat. "Since the election, people have been telling me that they wished I would run for council again," he said Wednesday. "I did some soul searching and decided to explore it." If he runs, Dingfelder would likely have to take the city to court to get on the ballot.On Nov. 4, two days after Dingfelder lost the election, the city council voted 4 to 2 to approve new rules preventing members who step down to run for another elected office from qualifying in the next city election. On the day council approved the change, Dingfelder criticized it but said he was not interested in returning to city politics. The changes were first proposed last year, but a majority of council members - which at the time included Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena, who also stepped down early to run for the county commission - decided not to move forward with the proposed rules. Council members who supported the new election limits said they weren't attempting to single out former or current members. Dingfelder, however, doesn't see it that way. "You can't change the rules in the middle of the game," he said, pointing out that he stepped down before the new law was approved. "This was politics at its worst." Dingfelder, a lawyer, lost the District 1 commission race to Sandy Murman. He fought off a costly legal challenge to his candidacy from Hillsborough Republicans, who tried to get him removed from the ballot because he missed the deadline to resign from council. Asked if he had concerns about a filing a legal challenge against the city that would cost taxpayers money, Dingfelder blamed the current council for creating the situation. "I warned them that this was unconstitutional and that it would end up costing the city money, but they didn't listen," he said. "They put the city in jeopardy, not me." City attorney Chip Fletcher said he believes the new law would survive a constitutional challenge and noted that other municipalities have "cooling off periods" for candidates. Dingfelder represented South Tampa in the District 4 seat for eight years. Term limits would have prevented him from running for that seat again, but not a citywide seat. If he decides to runs for District 1, he would face Curtis Stokes, who was appointed in mid-July to serve out the remainder Saul-Sena's term in the District 3 citywide seat, as well as West Tampa businessman Guido Maniscalco. No one else has filed to run. "I fought hard as a councilman and accomplished a lot in eight years," Dingfelder said. "There's always good work to do, and if the voters believe that, they will elect me."
Reporter Christian M. Wade can be reached at (813) 259-7679