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    Political Junkie: County Web site's votehart link takes Hart by surprise

    By Times staff writers
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 10, 2002

    Until Wednesday, a person would have typed on the computer and the Hillsborough County Web site biography of Commissioner Chris Hart would have popped up.

    State law generally prohibits candidates for office from using government resources on their campaigns. But Supervisor of Elections Pam Iorio says the Hart link may fall into a gray area.

    Linking to a Web site doesn't necessarily cost money, though purchasing the domain name does. And it could have been done by anyone without Hart's knowledge.

    Hart says that was the case.

    "I don't even have a Web site," Hart said. "I have an e-mail address. It's a surprise to me.

    Turns out the Web site was purchased in April 2001 by Holtec USA Corp., the company owned by east-county businessman and Republican activist Sam Rashid. Rashid said he purchased the site anticipating that Hart might run for mayor of Tampa or another office.

    He said he created the link to the county Web site just to have something there, but that it wasn't meant to be a campaign message. Then, he says, he forgot about it until a reporter called. "The simple fact is, it's a Web address that has no political implications other than the fact that it has 'votehart' in its name," Rashid said.

    Indeed, Rashid has changed the link so that the Web site for his German parent company pops up.

    * * *

    Speaking of Rashid, he said before the Republican primary that he would not be supporting Hart because he felt he is violating the spirit of term limits. Hart is leaving his at-large seat because of term limits and is seeking the single-member District 1 seat representing south and west Tampa.

    But now Rashid says he will support Hart, since he is the only Republican left in that race. In fact, he said he would even support the bid by Commissioner Jim Norman to win an at-large seat after leading the campaign of Stacey Easterling, who blasted Norman on term limits and other issues.

    "If you know me, I'm not one to sit on the sidelines," Rashid said.

    However, Norman has not returned his phone call.

    * * *

    Is a push poll being used against Democrat Scott Farrell in the House 57 race? Farrell thinks so.

    So does Joyce Smith, an adjunct political science professor at the Ybor campus of Hillsborough Community College.

    Smith said that two weeks ago a caller posing as a pollster asked her questions about Farrell and Republican opponent Faye Culp. She said the questions put a harsh light on support Farrell has garnered from teachers unions.

    "I told (the caller), 'Oh yeah, you got to get rid of those teachers,' " said Smith. "They're destroying our society."

    Smith said the caller's supervisor told her the survey was being conducted by the Tarrance Group, a Republican polling outfit in Virginia.

    Farrell said several people told him they received similar calls. He pinned the blame on Culp.

    Culp said her campaign isn't polling. But, she said, the Republican Party hired a pollster to help determine what groups should be targeted by her campaign.

    She said she didn't see the questions but heard they were pointed -- in both directions. In fact, a supporter who got a call told her the questions weren't very flattering to her.

    The Tarrance Group did not return a call Wednesday.

    * * *

    EVENTS: Oops. We gave you the wrong date for Jeb Bush's cookout in Dade City. It's this Sunday, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the ranch of Lowell and Evelyn Stanberry. For directions, call the Hillsborough Republican Party at 839-1132 . . .

    Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan will be in Tampa Saturday to walk precincts and attend a fundraiser for Republican Faye Culp, a candidate for the state House. To walk with Brogan, meet at the Bush/Brogan campaign headquarters at 10939 56th St. in Temple Terrace at 9 a.m. The Culp fundraiser will be at 3406 W Mullen Ave. at the home of Gil and Betsy Singer from 5 to 7 p.m. RSVP by calling 258-9896. . . .

    State Rep. Bob Henriquez will hold a spaghetti dinner on Oct. 17 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the West Tampa Convention Center. Dinner costs $5. Call 875-0900.

    -- Political Junkie is an occasional column on this year's election season. Got a tip? Bill Varian can be reached at 226-3387 or, and David Karp can be reached at 226-3376 or Staff writer Ron Matus contributed to this report.

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