Tim Heberlein announces bid for head of Hillsborough Democratic Party

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Longtime Democratic activist in Hillsborough County Timothy Heberlein is running for Hillborough County Democratic Executive Committee chair. Heberlein officially announced his decision over the holiday weekend, but has been considering the bid for quite some time.

“We have a lot of building to do with the DEC and I know that for me it’s not only something that I’ve been doing for a while it’s also something I’m very passionate about,” Heberlein said.

Heberlein, who used to serve as president of the Hillsborough Young Democrats, hopes to immediately tackle issues facing Democrats in upcoming elections. That includes the unusual Special Election in House District 64. Republican Jamie Grant was the incumbent. The House threw out his November 4 win because a write-in candidate had been wrongfully disqualified. Now Grant faces a February 10 primary and, if needed, a Special Election on April 21. Heberlein sees that as a chance for Dems to flip the GOP-controlled seat. As of right now, Grant is the only filed candidate, but Democrats could still put someone in the race.

If elected chair, Heberlein will also have his eye on the 2015 Tampa municipal elections.

“What we do has real live consequences,” he said. “We need to build the organization into what it should be.”

Heberlein currently serves on the DEC as vice chair of operations. He is also the organizing representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign and formerly worked for the Florida Consumer Action Network as the political organizer. He faces possible opposition from Elizabeth Belcher who expressed interest in running for the top seat. Regardless, Heberlein is confident in a win. No one has publically endorsed him for the job, but he said several people have said they support his bid and he expects to announce official support soon.

If elected, Heberlein says he looks forward to leading immediately after the December 11 election.

“One of the first things is building and development,” he said. “ Just making sure we have a process in place to engage people and I think that’s going to be one of the most important pieces.”

A Facebook post on Heberlein’s personal page has nearly 300 “likes” and 45 comments – most from friends expressing support. Heberlein said since he made the announcement he has heard from several people who have fallen out of local party engagement who say they are reinvigorated.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.