After winning a seat on the Pinellas County School board in 2008 that came back up for re-election in 2010, Hayden opted instead to run as the Democrat in the state Senate district 16 race against Republican Jack Latvala after Charlie Justice moved on for a run for Congress. Latvala beat her easily in that 2010 contest.
Now Hayden is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in Pinellas, with the winner to take on 40-year-plus incumbent Bill Young, and some of that same criticism is percolating: that Nina Hayden is taking on too much, too soon.
The 37-year-old attorney isn't having any of that.
"It’s up to the candidate to decide when their time is, and I don’t mind people commenting and having their opinion," she told CL at a campaign kickoff fundraiser held on her behalf Tuesday night at the Hilton at Carillon in St. Petersburg.
"They’re more than welcome to their opinion, but for me it’s a personal decision that has to be made. Nobody knows my personal circumstances, and I tell people and I’ve shown them over and over again I’m an advocate for the community, there was no one locally that was stepping up to the plate that was going to run for this Congressional seat. And I believe I’m a viable candidate."
Hayden is running against another attorney in her contested run for the Democratic nomination this August, Jessica Ehrlich, a St. Pete native who has worked on Capitol Hill for members of Congress in both parties. Ehrlich has been getting some love from D.C.-backed groups like Emily's List, but Nina Hayden insists that's no big thing.
"Those D.C folks are great, but when it comes to local politics and winning on the local level, I think it’s important to have the local support. It’s important to have events that are here locally."
Although the two have been present at some events already, they have yet to engage in any formal debates. Their first candidates' forum will take place next month at a Tiger Bay Forum (June 5).
When asked about President Obama's announcement last week that he now supports same-sex marriage but still will leave the power with the states, Hayden agrees with the latter, but not the former part of Obama's statement.
"I’ve been very clear to the LGBT community that..marriage is between a man and a woman. However, when it comes to allowing folks to vote [on the issue], they're more than welcome to do so. I’m not a person who puts my beliefs upon any other individual. I love folks of all faiths, of all persuasions, but I do stick to my personal beliefs, that’s not something I waver on."