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Storms unleashes fury on Waldron

The candidates' debate gets feisty at the Tampa Bay Tiger Bay Club.

By BILL VARIAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 24, 2002

TAMPA -- Hillsborough Commissioner Ronda Storms drew attention to the tiger-stripe pattern on her shirt as she opened her remarks Friday before The Tampa Bay Tiger Bay Club.

Then she pounced, attacking her Republican opponent again and again during the seasonal forum best known for its lively debates among candidates for office.

Storms accused banker Arlene Waldron of waffling on issues, lying about the reason she missed a forum in Sun City Center a day earlier and switching party loyalties.

"If it is my personality that is an issue, then I make an issue out of character," Storms said.

On her heels for much of the debate, Waldron attempted to stick to her main campaign theme by accusing Storms of "ineffective leadership." She suggested that the attack she was facing demonstrated it.

But she said she wasn't attacking Storms' personality.

"My position is her ineffective leadership style," Waldron said.

Afterward, club president Steve LaBour presented each of the participants with a gift mug.

"I think you understand today why we give these out at the end," he said.

Storms began by describing herself as someone with authenticity and integrity. She said she is the person she promised to be when she first ran for her District 4 seat representing southeast Hillsborough County.

When she says something, she said, she means it.

"You might not be able to say that about my opponent," Storms said.

She then described how a Waldron volunteer showed up at a forum Thursday for the Sun City Center Republican Club and said the candidate regretted not being there. The volunteer, Deven Carty, said Waldron's son had been involved in an accident and that family comes first.

Waldron later acknowledged that the son was injured Sunday in Gainesville. Records show she was actually filing paperwork with the Supervisor of Elections office around the same time as the Sun City Center forum. She said she didn't know how or if she had been misrepresented.

Carty, who was at Tiger Bay as well, said after the forum that she hadn't intended to mislead the Sun City Center crowd. She said she just wanted to thank them for their well wishes on Waldron's behalf. Storms also noted her opponent's switch from Democrat to Republican two years ago and accused Waldron of changing her stance on issues to suit the audience.

Waldron said she made the switch after realizing she had more in common with Republican beliefs as she got more involved in politics. But she said she is open to views from Democratic friends.

Waldron disputed Storms description of her wavering on issues. She said she may change her views after studying an issue because "I'm open-minded."

Waldron did attempt to counter each alleged flip-flop, asking Storms to refresh her memory on some of the accusations by saying "Ronda, help me. Help me, Ronda," an allusion to the Beach Boys tune Storms is using in a commercial for her campaign.

Candidates for the District 5 race also participated in Friday's debate, but their part of the forum was somewhat muted by the absence of Commissioner Stacey Easterling, who is challenging fellow Republican Jim Norman for the post.

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