Frank Farkas won’t run in House District 68

As an expensive and divisive primary shapes up on the Democratic side of the race to succeed Dwight Dudley in House District 68, one Republican thought to be a contender for the seat says he’s not interested in running.

Former state Rep. Frank Farkas said late last week he won’t be on the ballot in 2016. Farkas, a St. Petersburg chiropractor, held the seat from 1998 to 2006.

Farkas attempted to regain the seat in 2012, but lost a tough campaign to Dudley. (Don’t feel too bad for Farkas about that loss; six months later he won $50,000 a year for life in a Florida Lottery scratch-off game.)

District 68 is one of the most competitive legislative seats in Florida. Six different lawmakers have represented the Pinellas district – four Democrats and two Republicans – since 1996.

Dudley’s surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election has set off a chain reaction in local Democratic politics. Hours after Dudley’s announcement, rising star Ben Diamond said he would run for the seat and have already lined up several Democratic elected officials to endorse him. But on Monday, Eric Lynn, himself thought to be one of the faces of the future of the Democratic Party, abandoned his congressional bid to run in HD 68.

A primary fight between Diamond and Lynn is expected to cost north of $500,000 — a hefty price when Democratic resources in the area are limited.

HD 68 is a swing seat with a blue lean, according to demographics expert Matt Isbell. Voters in the district went 55 percent for Charlie Crist in the 2014 gubernatorial race and 54 percent for Barack Obama in 2012.

The lone Republican in the contest is Joseph “JB” Bensmihen, a home health-care company founder who recently moved to Pinellas from Palm Beach County. Bensmihen told William March of the Tampa Bay Times he’s willing to put a substantial amount of his own money, $50,000 to $100,000, into his campaign.

On Monday, Bensmihen announced that local Republican activist Matt Lettellier will manage his campaign.

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Who’s who of Pinellas politics join Jeff Brandes for campaign kickoff in St. Pete

State Sen. Jeff Brandes is hosting a kickoff reception Wednesday evening for his re-election effort.

More than three dozen current and former local officials are on the host committee for the event, set for the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

Host committee members include Republican Reps. Larry AhernChris Latvala, Kathleen PetersChris Sprowls and Dana Young, as well as former Reps. Frank Farkas, former Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst, and former St. Petersburg Mayors Bill Foster and Rick Baker, among many others.

Brandes is currently unopposed in his re-election campaign, which due to new district maps in 2012 and 2016, will be his third Senate run in four years.

The newly redrawn SD 24 has a slim GOP edge, and narrowly voted for Obama four years ago, making it possible Brandes could face a Democratic challenger in the fall. Heading into April, the Pinellas County senator had raised about $184,000 for his re-election campaign and had about $59,000 of that money on hand.

Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. RSVP with Rick Porter at 407-849-1112 or Rick@PoliticalCapitalFlorida.com.

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No Florida Senate bid for Dwight Dudley as he bears down on being re-elected in HD 68

St. Petersburg based House Democrat Dwight Dudley confirmed recently what has been common knowledge over the past month or so – that he has no intention of challenging Jeff Brandes in the state Senate District 22 seat later this year.

Dudley says that if last year’s redistricting of the senate districts had turned out differently, he may have chosen to run for the Senate, but that simply didn’t happen. “If there was a seriously useful well drawn seat, but it didn’t turn out that way,” he says, adding that “I’m certainly content to continue to represent the people where I’m from.”

He was first elected to the House in 2012 in an extremely spirited battle against Republican Frank Farkas. He withstood a challenge to his Pinellas County HD 68 seat in 2014 against Republican Billy Young, and to date in 2016 has yet to encounter a GOP challenger (He’s raised $36,212 to date).

Dudley may be best known in his four years in the House for his relentless advocacy for the expansion of solar power in the state, and his unbridled criticism of the public utilities.

He’s thrilled to have been a co-sponsor of CS/HJR 193, a constitutional amendment on the August 30 ballot that would exempt solar power equipment on homes from being counted toward a house’s value for property tax purposes. It also would exempt from taxation solar energy devices on commercial and industrial properties.

Dudley calls the bill “the really beautiful, wonderful Nirvana” piece of legislation, as opposed to the “lying, cheating, deceptive garbage” constitutional amendment by the group Consumers for Smart Solar, a measure being pushed by the public utilities that at times he’s been at war with since getting to Tallahassee.

Regarding the 2016 legislative session that’s now in the books, Dudley is proud of the “many bad things” that he feels he had a role in helping to kill, such as the gun proposals like open carry and campus carry, both of which went down to defeat.

“I was able to play a pretty decent role in having the opportunity to speak out, at Civil Justice and Judiciary (committees) all along the way to bring attention to these dangerous ideas, that extreme ideology ,” he says.

He also was a critical voice against a bill that would have set up a state permitting process for fracking in Florida.

“Why are we even allowing these things to come to waste valuable time in our state, a state that has so many issues that need to be address?” he asks, adding that “the great thing is that I’m there to fight against the bad things.”

Last week the progressive advocacy group Progress Florida named Dudley as one of their 18  “Champions of Florida’s Middle Class,” an appellation he is proud to have earned.

“There’s a perpetual amount of work that needs to be done in the watchdog fashion to try to protect taxpayers and consumers,” he says. “Is there any work to do? Yeah, there’s a ton of it. We just keep seeing greater opportunities for folks who may not need it quite as much as the people in our communities that are struggling.”

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As St. Petersburg burns, City Hall fiddles with parking meters

A certain city council member and mayoral candidate once remarked to me, after I complained about the unevenness of the enforcement of the city’s parking codes, that “those meters pay my salary.”

It’s probably obvious which council member said that to me, but it’s unclear who the genius is behind the decision to standardize when meters are policed throughout downtown, from 9 am to 10 pm, seven days a week.

In this economic downturn, when downtown concerns, especially restaurants, are going out of business seemingly every day, this decision is just downright stupid.

Maybe stupid enough for a couple of City Council members to lose their seats? Frank Farkas upset Margo Fischer by making an issue of the city’s parking meters. For example, why can’t Jason Diviki make an issue of this in his bid against Leslie Curran?

In fact, I’m starting to get the same feeling the Romans must have had when Nero left the city with his fiddle in hand. While the crime rate in St. Pete skyrockets, the City Council regulates soothsayers; while Baywalk withers, the City Council is worried about neighborhoods planting community gardens. And now, with Central Avenue going into economic remission, the city decides that what would be best for the businesses on that street is to make it more difficult for people to park.

Something tells me the voters of St. Petersburg won’t stand idly by as City Hall fiddles.

 

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If Bill Heller runs for Senate, Frank Farkas runs for H-52

Walking door-to-door for Jamie Bennett, I ran into my ol’ friend Frank Farkas. Talked him up about running again, and Frank said, if Bill Heller, as expected, runs for the state Senate and vacates his House seat, Farkas would run again to retake his old seat. Good for you, Frank, although you’re pretty much a liberal by today’s standards in Tallahassee.

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A point-by-point rebuttal of Diane Stenle’s editorial criticizing early mail-in voting

Let’s start being honest about why the St. Petersburg Times seeks to downplay the significance of early, mail-in voting: if voters cast their ballots early, that will lessen the importance of the Times‘ coverage, especially its editorial recommendations. My point-by-point response to Diane Stenle’s editorial is in italics.

Candidates might as well throw out the play book on how to run campaigns for local offices in Pinellas County. It’s a whole new ball game. The game changer: mail balloting.

Stenle is absolutely right; candidtes running modern campaigns need to get with the program, not just in regard to early voting by mail, but with several other issues, such as how online technology is revolutioninzing the way candidates communicate with voters. Bottom line: the playbook to win an election is all but obsolete by the time the ballots are being counted. Smart candidates, with smart people around them, will know how to modernize their efforts.

Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark recently released statistics on the county’s first experience with significant mail balloting. The numbers from the March 10 elections are stunning.

The numbers should not come as a surprise to those who follow elections closely. The reporters and editors at The St. Petersburg Times once covered local elections smartly enough to forsee trends like increased early voting by mail. But they’d rather have writers work on blogs like Wingman (the ultimate guy’s guide to the Tampa strip clubs, gambling, drinking and cigar clubs in Tampa Bay. Yes, that’s actually what one of the nation’s ten best newspapers advertizes about itself) than devote better coverage to all-important municipal elections. These numbers also did not come as a surprise to me, since I have been writing about this issue for almost four years.

There were 10 municipal elections that day. Polling places were open as usual so people could vote in person, but 66 percent of the votes cast were sent in through the mail. In Safety Harbor, 62 percent of the votes cast were by mail; in Oldsmar, 74 percent; in Dunedin and Belleair, 65 percent; in Redington Beach, 69 percent; in Gulfport and Indian Rocks Beach, 59 percent; in Kenneth City, 53 percent; in Seminole, an unbelievable 83 percent. Only in Belleair Bluffs were more votes cast in person than by mail. “The voters of Pinellas County have embraced this convenient way of voting,” Clark said. Clark also believes that mail balloting increased turnout in the local elections, though that is difficult to prove. Turnout can be affected by a host of factors, including weather, the number of candidates running and whether there are any hot issues. Turnout in the March 10 elections ranged from a low of 12 percent in Oldsmar, where only one City Council seat was on the ballot, to a high of 40 percent in Belleair Bluffs.

No, you cannot statistically infer that ice cream sales increase in July simply because it’s hot. But common sense tells you that people don’t want a double-scoop in the middle of the blizzard. Common sense also tells us that early mail-in voting, even if it did not directly increase overall turnout, which I believe it did, worked. There are no Buddy Johnson-like horror stories about long lines or missing ballots. Having the ballots come in over a longer period did not turn Election Day into the equivalent of the day after Thanksgiving at a Best Buy store.

Neither is it clear that mail balloting is the reason for the 63 percent turnout in the county’s first all-mail election, an annexation referendum in two precincts in East Lake on March 10. The community was incensed at Oldsmar’s bid to annex it, as indicated by the outcome: nearly 92 percent voted against annexation. Surely, people who felt so strongly would have found their way to a polling place if voting by mail had not been available.

So it’s okay to infer that voters would have actually gone to the polls, but it’s not okay to infer that early, mail-in voting is responsible for the increase in overall turnout. Stenle’s point actually proves my point that voters already decided on a candidate or an issue will vote earliest. On the “hottest” issue of the day, the Oldsmar annexation matter, voters clamored to mail in their ballots.

However, it is clear from the percentage of mail ballots cast in the city elections that something has changed. Mail ballots traditionally have been called “absentee ballots” (even though in recent years you didn’t have to be absent on Election Day to get one). But absentee ballots never made up the majority of votes cast. Not even close. Why so many mail ballots this time? There was a change in the way mail ballots were requested and distributed.

Pinellas residents who voted at the polls in the November 2008 election were asked by poll workers if they would like to receive a mail ballot for future elections. Those who said yes — and there were thousands of them — received a ballot for the March 10 election in their mailboxes in mid-January. Add in the voters who requested a mail ballot by contacting the Supervisor of Elections Office, and the result was an army of mail voters able to overwhelm the number of people voting at polling places.

That’s nowhere near the whole story. The Republican Party has been pushing voting by mail for well over a decade now. Bush would not have won without a successful “absentee voter” program. Since then, successful candidates have been “working” absentee voters with remarkable success. Look at many of the winning local candidates, Jim Sebesta, Dennis Jones, Andy Steingold, Leslie Waters, and they have been employing a GOTV strategy that performs better with early voters than with traditional voters. Some candidates, like Frank Farkas and Kim Berfield, would not have won their races if it were not for their targeting of early voters.

And they voted early. Thousands of ballots were cast in the city elections long before Election Day on March 10. Candidates who were running their campaigns by the old play book were caught off guard when they discovered people were voting in January.

Any candidate who was caught off guard by increased early voting obviously had not spoken with enough elected officials, political consultants, or campaign volunteers to know that the game, had in fact, changed. Therefore, they deserved to lose. Take for example what happened in Seminole: A newcomer Pat Plantamura whipped an incumbent Tom Barnhorn because “she was using data and having access to helpers. The data set that was the most important, she said, was list of voters who got mail-in ballots. Plantamura said she targeted those people because the campaign knew they had the ballot in hand and would be prone to use it.” On the other hand, Barnhorn said his campaign consisted mostly of himself and his wife going door to door. Plantamura deserved to win.

I’ve spoken with elected officials and people planning to run for office and some of them are concerned. If people are going to vote so early, candidates must try to reach them earlier than they did in the past. And that means they must start fundraising earlier and raise significantly more money to pay the costs of an extended campaign.

Oh pleeeaaassseee. It’s the Times that makes the biggest deal about the horserace apect of a campaign. Their reporters covering the St. Petersburg municipal races are chomping at the bit to write about who’s raised what. But it’s not like these candidates raised all that much money. Leslie Waters, a former state representative ,raised less than ten grand and the Times needled her for that. And she was the leading fundraiser. The rest of the candidates ran for public office on budgets that barely got past three figures. You know what ten grand pays for? Not much. Barely enough to send out a mailer or two to the likely registered voters in a city. Yard signs are about three bucks a piece. A few thousand door hangers costs another thousand. Food and refreshments for, say, five events costs another grand. And these are shoestring budgets for shoestring campaigns. I say these local candidates are not raising enough money. Anyone with an interest in their city should be picking a candidate and donaing $10 or $20 bucks to them.

If campaigns become more costly and burdensome, will that discourage people from running for local offices? Will it confine the candidate pool to those who can afford to bankroll their own campaigns?

Mail balloting itself isn’t the problem. Voting by mail is convenient and easy and may very well increase voter turnout. The problem is that the supervisor of elections sent the bulk of the ballots out so early. Mailing ballots in January for an election in March leads to uninformed voting and increases the cost and length of election campaigns.

Stenle is correct that campaigns will become more costly, but it certainly didn’t discourage a diverse field from participating in the recent municipal elections. And with nine people running for mayor of St. Petersburg, the cost of campaigning doesn’t seem to be having an effect there.

As for mailing ballot in January for an election in March, that has a lot to do with sending ballots to those overseas, particularly our brothers and sisters in military uniform. Ms. Stenle, do you really want to do anything to hurt the chances of our armed forces personnel from casting their ballot?

For now, candidates planning to run in local elections later this year and early next year have little choice but to come up with new strategies for their campaigns. However, since mail balloting is a trend here in Pinellas and throughout Florida, what’s needed is establishment of a reasonable time window, set statewide by law or policy, that determines when elections supervisors may mail ballots to local voters.

That’s what we elect a Supervisor of Elections to do.

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Frank Farkas suggests there’s more to Ray Sansom story then meets the eye. And he’d know!

A letter-to-the-editor from former Represenative Frank Farkas almost slipped by without me noticing, but it’s worth reading:“It took a while, but state House Speaker Ray San­som did the right thing for himself, his constituents and all Floridians by resigning his speaker post. His lack of judgment, or poor judgment, now rises to the level of several investigations. The Times Tallahas­see bureau is to be commended for their investiga­tive reporting. But before you crucify Sansom any further, it would be nice to let the facts speak for themselves and make final judgment after the inves­tigation concludes.

Speaking of facts, I hope Times Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet, et al., will give readers, as Paul Harvey states, “the rest of the story.” As a former legislator, and a vice chair of an appropriations com­mittee, I can tell you that it is impossible to “sneak” something in the budget, especially $31 million in projects! It must be approved by 1) the speaker of the House, 2) the Senate budget chairman, 3) the Senate president, 4) the majority of the House and the Senate membership and 5) Gov. Charlie Crist. The House and Senate leadership was fully aware of these projects, as well as the governor’s office. Frank Farkas, St. Petersburg.”

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On Endorsements

Are endorsements helpful in state legislative races? Of course they are. When one candidate earns a majority of endorsements, like Charles Gerdes has in the Democratic Primary for House District 53, then that has to count for something.

Often, though, the slate of endorsements are spread out among each of the candidates in a race. The Realtors endorsed this candidate, the PBA endorsed that candidate and so on. Sometimes, a candidate wins all of the “Democratic” endorsements, like ones from the trial lawyers and teachers unions, while another candidate garners the support of the obvious “Republican” organizations, such as chambers of commerce. And, of course, there are natural endorsements, like when an organization’s member runs for office and earns their endorsement, i.e., Nancy Riley winning the support of the Realtors.

It’s only when a candidate earns the majority of the endorsements, a “cross-over” endorsement or a key early endorsement that the support really matters. I made the argument last week that the Firefighters endorsement of Democrat Liz McCallum was a major coup for her campaign because it is an example of a “cross-over” endorsement. The Firefighters have supported the GOP candidate in this race for at least the last eight years, but now they have switched their support to the Democrat. That, in and of itself, is news.

But I’d like to hear what you think: which organization’s endorsement matters most around here? Is it the PBA or the Firefighters, whose support indicates a candidate’s strength on law and order issues. Is it the PCTA (teachers), whose endorsement matters most when talking about education. Or is it the Realtors, with their high visibility and strong fundraising capability. Here’s my list, from most important on down:

Firefighters — polling indicates that their endorsement matters most to voters, at least since 9/11. Almost by definition, having the firefighters on your side, allows a candidate to boast about their public safety credentials. The local firefighters aren’t viewed as highly partisan, so their objectivity boosts their credibility. The FFs also provide a lot of on-the-ground manpower, especially when it comes to distributing signs. The only downside of the firefighters endorsement is that it doesn’t come with a lot of money attached. These are civil servants after all.

MDs — just look what the MDs are doing in Kim Berfield’s race, providing her with a $100K fundraising advantage over chiropractor Frank Farkas. That’s the biggest advantage of their support: money. Although doctors are notoriously frugal, when they do decide to pull out their checkbooks, they can write a hefty sum. The MDs are represented well statewide by Sandy Mortham. Locally, they were stronger when John Hamilton was more involved, but they are still a force. Voters are increasingly sympathetic to general practitioners and so their support adds a lot in races where health care is an important issue. There are two disadvantages to having the doctors’ support: they’re not especially strong on the ground (don’t expect an MD to walk door-to-door for you) and their support automatically earns a candidate the opposition of the trial lawyers.

Realtors — You’ve got to give the Realtors credit for improving their game. They’re strong on the ground because of their high visibility and they’ve improved their fundraising efforts. The reason why I like the Realtors so much is the leadership offered by local operative Mike Mayo, a former Crist staffer that has expanded the portfolio of the Realtors issues. Mayo commissioned a poll and brought attention to the teacher salary issue, which is, at first, not a natural issue for the real estate industry, but makes sense when he explains that education and quality of life issues matter increasingly to Realtors. The Realtors wholesale support of Nancy Riley in H-50 will give them a major voice in the Florida Legislature. Its the Realtors lack of a relatively strong statewide effort that diminishes their strength. Also, having the Realtors on your side doesn’t lend itself to any credibility on the major issues.

Trial Lawyers — What a double-edged sword it is to have the support of trial lawyers…to have their support means that you can be accused of having their support and we all know how popular trial lawyers are. Personally, I dig trial lawyers. In many cases, they are society’s last defense against total corporate control. But so many of the trial lawyers are “political cowboys” or “one-man wrecking machines,” acting on their own and, oftentimes, against each other. But their money is what matters. With a few academy members on your side, a candidate can finance an entire campaign. Just look out for the opposition you’ll draw from every other major interest group. Locally, the trial lawyers need a few more wins before they move up the charts.

Teachers — It used to mean so much to have the support of the teachers. This was when Jade Moore was a major force in political circles. He still has some juice, but even he’ll tell you it’s hard to have much impact when most of the legislative delegation won’t let you into their office. The teachers have backed some real losers over the last eight years, but that’s only because the Democratic Party hasn’t offered them better candidates to support. Having the PCTA’s support gives any candidate instant credibility on education issues and provides a campaign with a large network of grassroots activists. They can even offer some money because the statewide network of teachers’ unions, the TIGER PACs, coordinate their financial support. The teachers need a win in 2006 to regain their status.

Well, that’s my Top 5. What’s your’s?

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10 Things I Think I Think

If Charlie Crist’s all-out TV ad blitz and statewide bus tour didn’t widen the gap between him and Tom Gallagher, the response by Gallagher’s campaign certainly exacerbated the situation. The Gallagher campaign sent protesters to a Crist rally, they distributed a very lame Top 10 list about Charlie’s bus tour, they’ve released useless media bulletins, etc., etc. It’s becoming apparent how bush-league Gallagher’s campaign is being run.

Of course, I just hate the message Crist is delivering: “I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican!” he exclaims everywhere. The last thing this state needs is a Reaganesque leader. First of all, if Reagan was good at anything — and that’s a big if — it was foreign policy, not exactly part of the next governor’s portfolio. So does that mean Crist will model his governing policies on Reagan’s domestic policies? If so, then I’ll have to vote against Charlie. Florida doesn’t need less government, it needs better government.

Would anything be more obnoxious than John Renke running for judge again after he is thrown off the bench by the Florida Supreme Court? Yes, if Judge Brent Downey does the same thing. Judge Downey is reportedly thinking of resigning earlier than his agreement with the JQC stipulated and filing to run for the open Circuit Judge seat. Puke!

Wait, there is one more thing more obnoxious than a Renke candidacy…the scene at the PCREC last night when judicial candidates Pat Siracusa and Lee Ann Lake, who really shouldn’t even be at such partisan events, actually campaigned for the local GOP’s endorsement. Did the Renke scandal not teach these people anything? I hope the JQC and the Supreme Court come down hard on any judicial candidate that tries any funny business.

Why is Carrie Wadlinger being allowed to stay in office as chair of the Pinellas Democratic Party. She announced her resignation weeks ago, but made it effective for the beginning of candidate qualifying week in July. That’s like Santa Claus resigning on Christmas Eve. Get out of the way Carrie and let the leaders who want to lead do what you could not.

The only thing worse than Carrie in office is not knowing who will lead after she is gone.

Click on any of the candidate sites I have listed on the right and it’s like visiting the Internet circa 1998. Most of the sites are so boring, both creatively and content-wise. With few exceptions, most of the websites look like they were designed by “volunteers.” There is little updating and almost no true-interactivity. Sure, the sites done for the GOP incumbents, like Frank Farkas or Kim Berfield, are decent, but even those sites are based on website models from four or six years ago. Basically, these websites — in the era of Howard Dean and DailyKos — are lifeless brochures thrown together with little forward-thinking. Tsk, tsk.

What will the local Dems do when Liz McCallum posts her best fundraising quarter total to-date?

Where is Katherine Harris?

Welcome back to all the things that make summer so exciting. Hurricanes, tanlines, 2-for-1 margarita specials, barbecues, a new season of Entourage. Like the man said in Swingers, it’s 80 degrees here every day!

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To run or not to run? Bill Heller faces a decision in H-52

From The Buzz: Former USF St Pete Dean Bill Heller looks to many Democrats like a dream candidate for recapturing state House District 52, now held by Frank Farkas. But despite heavy recruiting from Betty Castor and others, Heller has not yet decided to run. Meanwhile Republican frontrunner Angelo Cappelli says he gave the dean a little warning a few weeks ago. “I told him, ‘If you run against me, make sure you know I’m bringing everything I have to bear,’ ” Cappelli recalled saying. He says he recently passed the $100,000 fundraising mark and has about $80,000 on hand.

Certainly, this is the local news item of the week. If House District 52 was not already the most competitive seat in the state, Bill Heller’s entrance into the race would certainly make it so, right?

No.

The prospect of a 70-year old academician walking door-to-door in the Florida heat should not be welcomed by local Democrats eager to win this seat back from the GOP. Democrats need a vigorous, youthful candidate capable of outworking the sure-to-be-better-funded Republican candidate. Wait a second, the Democrats already have a charismatic, vigorous candidate capable of outworking Angelo Cappelli. Her name is Liz McCallum and it’s time the local Democratic establishment stops flirting with prospective candidates and rally behind the candidate who almost picked off Frank Farkas in 2004 and, with sufficient help from state and local Democrats, can win this seat in 2006.

For a variety of reasons, Liz has yet to be embraced by the local Democratic establishment. Her problems begin with Kevin King, the sophomoric operative the Florida Democratic Party installed as a field organizer. Mr. King has never liked Liz. He managed the inept campaign run by Chris Eaton in 2002 and has always wanted Chris to run again in District 52. Liz’ strong showing in 2004 all but prevented that, and I don’t think Kevin has forgiven Liz for this. Kevin has undermined Liz with the Florida Democratic Party and has run a non-stop whisper campaign against her locally. The worst rumor Mr. King has circulated is some bullshit about Liz being anti-gay, a position which could not be further from the truth.

It is because of Liz’ perceived weakness with local Democrats that her campaign has not been met with more excitement, and why otherwise good people like Bill Heller continue to play with the idea of challenging McCallum for the nomination.

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