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Incumbent Farkas seizes commanding lead

By ALICIA CALDWELL, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 11, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- Frank Farkas, a two-term state House representative, appeared poised to take an easy victory Tuesday in the District 52 Republican primary.

With three-quarters of precincts reporting, the St. Petersburg chiropractor was crushing Cary Burns, 51, of St. Petersburg, by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio in what had become a bitter, negative campaign.

"I'm glad the voters saw through all the lies and distortion," Farkas said late Tuesday from his campaign celebration. "I hope this sends a message to my next two opponents."

Farkas will face Democrat Chris Eaton and Libertarian Alison Lipscomb in the Nov. 5 general election.

Burns did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

The District 52 seat, which represents parts of northeast St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park and Largo, is establishing a track record for nasty races.

In the weeks before the primary, state GOP Chairman Al Cardenas and House speaker-designate Johnnie Byrd of Plant City wrote a letter to Burns telling him they were disappointed with his negative campaign. Two years ago, Democrat Margo Fischer said Farkas defeated her by smearing her with untruths.

The district offers no party a clear advantage. Registered Republicans are a majority in the district, but not by much: 41.6 percent of registered voters are Republicans, 37 percent are Democrats and 21.4 percent are independent or members of smaller political parties.

Farkas, 46, of St. Petersburg was elected to the House in 1998 after losing in a 1996 campaign for the seat. He's a graduate of St. Petersburg Catholic High School, St. Petersburg Junior College, Eckerd College and Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Farkas supports Gov. Jeb Bush's education reforms, including the standardized FCAT test, which rates students and schools. The economic downturn that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks thwarted plans to boost education funding this year, he said. Farkas said he enjoys helping constituents and that he tries to make government work for them rather than against them.

Burns is a graduate of the University of North Florida. He has been a marine biologist, has worked for the Operation PAR drug treatment program and has a home refurbishing business. He had accused Farkas of catering more to special interests and lobbyists than his constituency.

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