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    Norman challenges opponent to debate

    Political Junkie is an occasional column on this year's election season.

    By Times staff writers
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 4, 2002

    Hillsborough Commissioner Jim Norman is challenging his Republican opponent and fellow commissioner Stacey Easterling to a debate.

    In a release issued Friday, Norman accused Easterling of ducking several forums this campaign season. She skipped one before the Tampa Republican Women Federated club last month and said she had a conflict with a July 17 date before the Tiger Bay Club.

    Now she's passing on the annual League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County televised forum, to be taped starting Monday. Easterling, like colleague Ronda Storms, said she will miss that forum because it is being recorded at the studios of public access television, which she said is not a neutral venue.

    "It just doesn't make any sense to me," Norman said. "There are dozens of debates and forums. We can't make them all, but you don't -- under any circumstances -- deny the League of Women Voters and Tiger Bay Club."

    Easterling claims she never got invited to the Republican Women's forum, which debate organizer April Schiff strongly denies. Easterling said she had a prior obligation on the Tiger Bay date, and the group is trying to reschedule it.

    She denied ducking Norman. She said she gets lots of invitations and can't make them all.

    "To me, it's first-come, first-served," Easterling said. "Tell him to hold on to his pants. We've got plans for him."

    * * *

    More and more campaign mailouts are starting to land in the mailboxes of frequent voters. A couple were circulating this week, both of them attacking the records of incumbents:

    Democrat Ed Crawford accused Democrat incumbent Pat Frank of "bungling" the county's water shortage debate and of politicizing the issue instead of solving it. The result, he says, is that some county residents can't water their lawns at all. He promises to work on conservation measures that will ease the problem and to work better with neighboring governments.

    "That's just the kind of campaigning I hate to see happen," Frank said. "I run positive campaigns."

    Meanwhile, Republican Arlene Waldron is accusing Storms, the incumbent Republican in the District 4 race for south and east Hillsborough, of neglecting the community's problems "drop by drop." She starts with water issues and finishes with, "It's time to drop Ronda Storms."

    * * *

    County Commission candidate Kathy Castor left a recorded telephone message with about 10,000 registered voters Friday, urging them to vote in Saturday's mock election and open house. "It was a good government kind of call," said Castor, a former president of the Hillsborough League of Women Voters.

    It also let voters know that Castor is on the real ballot in September for the County Commission seat representing south Tampa and Town 'N Country. On Saturday, diehard voters who went to the mock election told Castor they got her call. "It was great," she said.

    * * *

    After starting with a few intimate fundraisers, Frank has held large campaign events on back-to-back weekends. A July 28 free spaghetti dinner drew 1,170 supporters. She had another fundraiser Friday night on Davis Islands, complete with a fashion show and reggae music. Attendees were asked to contribute a $50 donation to her campaign.

    Mayoral candidate Bob Buckhorn took baby-kissing to a new level this week. He put a picture of his 15-month-old daughter Grace on an invitation to a fundraiser. The invite to the event, which also celebrated Buckhorn's 44th birthday, showed Grace with birthday cake smeared on her face. "It's party time," the invite said, and told guests to "RSVP to Mommy."

    * * *

    CALENDAR: The Town & Country Alliance Inc. will hold the first of its planned political forums at 7 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior, 8401 W Hillsborough Ave. Candidates for Hillsborough Commission districts 1, 5 and 7 are invited. At 6 p.m. that same night, the Tampa Republican Women Federated will have a forum for the District 4 commission candidates at Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse, 4744 N Dale Mabry Highway. For reservations, which are necessary, call Janet Rockey at (813) 835-0149.

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