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

in Peter/The Bay and the 'Burg by

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?


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.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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