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State House 47 primaries too close to call

By JOSH ZIMMER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 11, 2002

CARROLLWOOD -- Northdale lawyer Kevin Ambler and Forest Hills marketing executive Jill Collins were running neck and neck early Wednesday in the Republican primary for the state House 47 seat.

On the Democratic side, another lawyer, Michael Steinberg of Carrollwood, held a small lead over Carrollwood community activist Lynn McGarvey.

The candidates are vying to replace four-term legislator Rob Wallace (R-Carrollwood), who is leaving because of state-mandated term limits.

Libertarian candidate Rob Schwartzberg will represent that party in the general election.

With almost 90 percent of the precincts reporting in the Republican primary, Ambler led Collins by just a handful of votes in a race that turned increasingly bitter toward the end of the campaign.

Collins employed several negative ads, including one that ridiculed lawyers and another that specifically targeted Ambler, questioning his credibility as president for the past seven years of the Northdale Special Taxing District.

A major and judge advocate with the Air Force Reserves, Ambler lobbed his own attacks at Collins, who is Gov. Jeb Bush's appointee to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. He questioned her political independence, noting the contributions she received from business interests outside the Tampa area.

The Democratic primary was cordial. All three candidates pledged to support the winner.

"I think (Democrats) have a good shot depending on how Bill McBride does," Steinberg said. "Our platforms are very similar."

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