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At “Souls to the Polls” event, Mark Ober meets up with a man he once defended on murder charges

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Before he was elected Hillsborough County State Attorney in 2000, Mark Ober spent the previous thirteen years working as a criminal defense attorney, in which he represented all types of the citizenry.

One of them happened to be Gerald Walden, who was charged with murder in the early 1990’s. Walden was found guilty, and spent the past two decades plus in a variety of correctional facilities before being released last month from Polk Correctional on controlled release.

As Ober was making a campaign stop in front of the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. library in East Tampa on Sunday, the two greeted each other warmly.

“God Bless You,” Ober told Walden. “I believe in you, and I believe you can just do what they tell you.”

“It’s better here than there,” Walden said, in a bit of an understatement.

Ober was shaking hands and kibitzing with voters who endured lines at the library in one of the designated “Souls to the Polls” events in Tampa, on the last day of early voting in Florida.

It’s been the most intense campaign that the Republican Ober has endured since being elected to the open seat in 2000, when he defeated Democrat Robert Shimberg in 2000. Former federal prosecutor Andrew Warren has ran an aggressive campaign to upend the incumbent, prompting Ober to say last month that he had confidence that the voters would “see through the lies and distortions, and get the facts and the truth, before casting their vote.”

Ober didn’t add anything to his previous remarks about his Democratic opponent on Sunday, saying he can only control what he has done. “I’ve been positive and forthright in my campaign. The voters will decide what they think about his campaign and his experience.”

There were a handful of activists protesting against Ober at the polling site.

“He’s been in office for 16 years and hasn’t been fair with the black community,” said Tampa resident Mona Judge. She said the last straw for her was when the Tampa Bay Times reported in 2015 about the disproportionate number of citations that the Tampa Police Department was writing to black bicyclists. “I thought it was just ridiculous,” she said.

“He’s locking up too many of our young people. I don’t like a lot of his policies,” Judge said, adding that she didn’t have anything about Ober personally, but would be voting for Warren.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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