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© St. Petersburg Times, published November 4, 2002
Four years ago at election time, I entered into a contest of predicting the outcomes of various races. The result was my humbling defeat by Susan MacManus, the oft-quoted expert from the University of South Florida, who edged me out by a single prediction and therefore became the undisputed Potentate of Prognostication.
Unfortunately, this year the good doctor is unavailable. She therefore remains undefeated, but only, I vow to you, temporarily.
A new rival is required. But who?
Who gets quoted as a political expert in these parts nearly as often as MacManus? Who is the next logical rival for becoming the Sultan of Seers, the Osiris of Opinion?
My old friend Wayne S. Garcia, that's who. He is the "Garcia" of the political consulting firm Repper, Garcia & Associates.
Wayne needs desperately to be mocked, because he is quoted too often in the media as a political expert to back up whatever point the author is trying to prove.
"I am quoted too often in the media as a political expert to back up whatever point the author is trying to prove," Garcia dutifully told me.
We enter into the game with the usual caveat: I must make clear we are merely predicting results, and in no way endorsing or recommending a candidate. Let us proceed.
We both predict a Republican sweep in statewide races -- Gov. Jeb Bush over Bill McBride , Charlie Crist over Buddy Dyer for attorney general, and incumbent Charles Bronson over David (or is it Bill?) Nelson for agriculture commissioner.
However, we split on the 10 amendments to the state Constitution on the ballot. I boldly predict that every single one of them will pass, even the one about pregnant pigs and the controversial class-size amendment.
Garcia, on the other hand, believes that Amendment 3 (home rule in Miami) will be defeated because not many of us will even understand what the heck it is. He also predicts defeats for Amendment 4 (public records), Amendment 9 (class sizes) and Amendment 11 (independent university board.)
"As Jeb's numbers come up," Garcia reasons, "I think that can only help the opponents of Amendment 9." Maybe so, but I'm betting that inertia carries it across the finish line.
The canny Garcia agreed with me in every single local race except two.
That includes U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman over her challenger Ginny Brown-Waite; Nancy Argenziano over Richard Mitchell in state Senate District 3; and Mike Fasano over Lee Cannon in Senate District 11.
To gain advantage, I wickedly put Garcia in a conflict of interest by including state House District 60 in Tampa, where he is working for Ed Homan, the Republican challenger to Rep. Sara Romeo. Naturally he predicted his client, swearing it was his impartial judgment. Against all advice and conventional wisdom, I pick the gutsy Romeo to hold on.
In House Race 57, also in Tampa, Garcia goes with a hunch and predicts Democrat Scott Farrell over Republican Faye Culp, who is trying to make a comeback. I say regardless of anything else, Culp is too good a campaigner and will win.
In Pinellas, we both predict County Commissioner John Morroni holding on against Dave Buby ("He'll be fishin', not on the commission"), and Tiffany Todd riding family name recognition and party ties into a School Board seat against Mary Brown. We also both predict Republican Frank Farkas wins re-election over Democratic challenger Chris Eaton in House District 52 in St. Petersburg.
Hillsborough is a hotbed of County Commission races, the toughest of which is District 1, Chris Hart vs. Kathy Castor. We both say Castor, close. Our other calls are Ken Hagan in District 2, Tom Scott in District 3, Jim Norman in District 5 and Pat Frank in District 7.
So you see, out of 26 races, we disagree on a mere six, and four of those are constitutional amendments. As with Florida's elections themselves, our contest may be decided by the sheerest of margins, and perhaps only after lawsuits and recounts.
By the way, there is a tiebreaker: number of days after the election it takes to certify the ballot in Broward County. I, ever the optimist, predict a mere two. Garcia's prediction: 15. Don't say you weren't warned.