Little less than a year before the primary, Robin Fuson's fundraising is far behind that of the incumbent, State Attorney Mark Ober.
TAMPA - With nearly a year to go before the Aug. August 2004 primary, attorney Robin Fuson's campaign to unseat Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober is still in its early stages.
But if dollars were votes, Fuson would be the underdog, facing an incumbent whose re-election campaign is already in full swing.
Fuson, who announced his candidacy in May, estimates he has so far raised some $10,000, a fraction of what Ober has already amassed in his war chest. "We haven't even had a fundraiser yet," Fuson said.
By contrast, Ober's camp estimates it has already raised more than $100,000, some $30,000 of which was donated at his re-election kickoff party Thursday night.
Fuson boasts of having the endorsements of the Florida Family Association and radio hosts Bubba the Love Sponge Clem and Tedd Webb, as well as the "grassroots support" of local law enforcement officers.
Ober has lined up the support of a Who's Who of current and former elected officials, including Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, Hillsborough Sheriff Cal Henderson, former Gov. Bob Martinez, Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Beldon and Property Appraiser Rob Turner.
At Ober's kickoff Thursday, Crist introduced him as "a great friend" and "a great public servant."
"I've been a steward of the taxpayers' dollars," Ober said in an interview. "I'd match the quality of prosecutors in our office with any prosecutors in the country."
Ober, who has been in office nearly three years, said he was most proud of "bringing dignity and respect to an office that was literally in shambles when I was elected."
Ober's predecessor, Harry Lee Coe, killed himself amid mounting questions about his gambling addiction.
When Ober was elected, he demoted Fuson, a longtime prosecutor, from his position as chief of the narcotics division. Fuson later left the office. He is now in solo practice doing criminal defense work, handling primarily DUI and narcotics cases.
He said he is a prosecutor at heart. He said he wants to streamline the office and create a cadre of prosecutors who deal exclusively with drug crimes.
"I'm not running because of any personal vendetta," Fuson said. "I'm running because it's what I always planned to do, and it seems like the appropriate time."
- Christopher Goffard can be reached at 226-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org