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    Dyer first among four for attorney general

    He lays claim to the Democratic nomination for attorney general, but one opponent awaits the final tally.

    By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 12, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- After a night of uncertainty, Buddy Dyer claimed the Democratic attorney general nomination Wednesday, squeaking past Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox to set up a general election battle with Republican Charlie Crist.

    Crist won more than half the votes in his three-way race and declared victory Tuesday night, while Dyer waited for more results Wednesday before declaring victory, though not all the ballots had been counted because of the election day fiasco in South Florida.

    "We're up 28,000 votes, and I don't think there's even 28,000 votes left to count," said Dyer, an Orlando state senator. Final results are expected today.

    Still, Maddox held out hope Wednesday evening he could close the gap.

    "We're not going to concede," said Maddox spokeswoman Allie Merzer.

    Although Maddox isn't expected to challenge the results of Tuesday's election, Merzer said he does plan to wait until every vote is counted before conceding defeat.

    "We just owe it to the people to wait until those votes are in," Merzer said.

    Maddox spent considerable time campaigning in Broward County, which had some of the worst election day problems. He hoped the time he spent there would help him move past Dyer.

    But Dyer said it was time to move on.

    "Nobody's called me to concede. Not even Walter Dartland," who placed last in the four-way race, Dyer said. Former Deputy Attorney General George Sheldon placed third.

    Dyer attributed his small lead over Maddox to his decision to run his campaign as if he were already facing Crist in the general election and not three opponents in a primary. Had he focussed more specifically on Democratic voters, Dyer said he would have spent more time campaigning in South Florida.

    "We put probably more than half of our money in Tampa and Orlando," Dyer said. That's where the general election battle will be fought, he said.

    Dyer and Crist begin the general election campaign today in Clearwater at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.

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