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Man on a mission, but going it alone

Gubernatorial hopeful Bob Kunst, an independent and universally ignored, brings his campaign to Tampa. He predicts an upset.

By DAVID KARP, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 30, 2002

TAMPA -- One week before Election Day, Democrat Bill McBride barnstormed across South Florida and Gov. Jeb Bush campaigned alongside U.S. Sen. John McCain at a veterans event in Punta Gorda.

And Bob Kunst?

The third person on the Nov. 5 ballot for governor was standing by himself on a sidewalk in downtown Tampa.

"A reporter?" Kunst said when he saw one. "What the hell are you doing here?"

Almost everyone, including major newspapers, have ignored Kunst's quixotic candidacy for governor. Kunst, a gay rights activist from Miami Beach, will appear on the ballot next week as a candidate without party affiliation.

Tuesday, he was a candidate without anyone at his side.

He stood on Kennedy Boulevard, sweating. He had driven hours to hand out placards and bumper stickers outside Tampa City Hall.

His 1993 Buick Park Avenue was draped with orange protest signs. One said, "Bush Stole the Election." Another on his windshield said, "Bush Buster."

"Outraged?" one of his five bumper stickers said. "Kunst."

The sidewalk where Kunst set up camp was largely empty after the downtown lunch crowd had gone back to work. Workers trickled by, looking at Kunst, trying to figure out what cause he was promoting.

"Don't vote for Bush. Don't vote for McBride," he told Lorraine Wright. "If you come with us, you'll send a message."

Wright, a Robles Park resident feeding the meter during a visit to the Tampa Police Department, wasn't swayed. She was voting for McBride, the Democratic Party nominee, because Bush had disappointed her after he reached out to African-American voters during his 1998 campaign.

Kunst remains convinced that McBride doesn't stand a chance. He calls McBride "McBush" because he says the Democratic Party nominee has adopted many of the big-money, probusiness stances of the Republican governor.

All week, Kunst has gone it alone. After leaving Fantasy Fest in Key West, he did radio interviews for Voice of Israel from the car, where he also sleeps. When he is on the road, he showers at YMCAs. He also stops at colleges to use library computers to answer e-mails.

On Election Night, he plans an intimate dinner with three or four friends.

He expects to see a quiet revolution overtake the parties that night. He says an upset will come because no one yet has broken into his car or beat him up. Even rude hand gestures have been rare. "I have gotten four fingers in two years," he said. "What does that tell you?"

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