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Forthright Storms fends off challenger

By DAVID BALLINGRUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 11, 2002

Outspoken incumbent Ronda Storms held an apparently solid lead over challenger Arlene Waldron in the Hillsborough County Commission District 4 race late Tuesday. Waldron attacked Storms' leadership, saying her sometimes controversial comments polarized people.

Storms, a former teacher and lawyer, acknowledges she has made mistakes. But she says she has championed the issues that matter most to her conservative constituency.

"Whatever people's criticisms of me are, it's not that I'm weak-kneed," Storms said. "I'm not running for Miss Congeniality. I'm running for County Commission."

In other Republican commission races, incumbent Jim Norman, 49, led another incumbent, Stacey Easterling, 32. Both sought an at-large seat -- Easterling after two years representing south and west Tampa in District 1; Norman, after being forced out of the District 2 seat in northern Hillsborough because of term limits.

Easterling said she made the move because it will give her a broader platform to champion suburban issues, from water conservation to linking school siting and land-use decisions.

In Democratic races for the Hillsborough commission, Kathy Castor appeared headed for victory, as did political fixture Pat Frank.

Castor, daughter of former Florida education commissioner and USF president Betty Castor, worked as a private land use and local government attorney.

In a Pasco County Commission race, David "Hap" Clark, 80, who gave up his seat two years ago for an unsuccessful run for tax collector, was being soundly beaten by incumbent Steve Simon. There is no Republican candidate.

The battle for the state House District 47 seat was wide open with no incumbent to make the outcome easier to forecast.

District 47 has changed since the 2000 elections. Legislators removed the portion that stretched along the Pinellas-Pasco county line to Tarpon Springs and left a district with a distinct northwest Hillsborough identity.

The district's 75,610 registered voters are evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. What's more, unaffiliated and small party voters tally a considerable 21 percent.

When Republican incumbent Rob Wallace was forced out by term limits, a flood of candidates rushed in. Although most have extensive records of public service, none is a household name.

Late Tuesday, Republicans Jill Collins and Kevin Ambler appeared neck-and-neck.

On the Democratic side, Michael Steinberg and environmental activist Lynn McGarvey were also close.

Internal auditor Robert Schwartzberg is running unopposed for the Libertarian Party, and will not appear on the ballot until the general election.

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