The Pinellas teachers union last week endorsed Rep. Charlie Justice for a third term in the state House, but the union couldn't find Justice's only challenger.
That's because Democrat Ronald Newsome was in jail.
Newsome, 41, was arrested Sept. 26 and charged with using the Internet to seduce a 15-year-old boy. He faces three counts of lewd and lascivious battery and a computer pornography charge. Bail was set at $30,000.
Newsome was arrested one day after he filed papers to run for the District 53 seat. His attorney, Carolyn Van Zant, declined to comment.
Jail inmates can run for office unless they are convicted of a felony, said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the state elections division.
If Newsome gets on the ballot during qualifying next month, he would face Justice in the Aug. 31 primary. But Newsome already has plans that day. It's the date of his trial.
REVOLVING DOOR: It's a common occurrence in Tallahassee for someone to leave state government for the lucrative world of lobbying. It's not often a lobbyist closes his practice and takes a state job.
But this one has broader political implications.
One of the capital's best-known lobbyists, Peter Dunbar, is the new general counsel for the state's chief financial officer, Tom Gallagher.
Dunbar, 57, is a former Republican state House member from Pinellas County and was the top lawyer for former Gov. Bob Martinez. He replaces Mark Casteel, who has taken another legal position in Gallagher's shop.
Dunbar, who will earn $115,000 a year, said he will divest his interest in Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson, Bell & Dunbar, the Tampa law firm that counts Tampa Bay Water among many clients. Dunbar's son, Marc, also is an attorney there.
Gallagher and Dunbar are close friends. If Gallagher runs for governor in 2006, Dunbar acknowledged he may step down to help run the campaign.
"I always like being where the action is," he said.
ADVERTISING REAGAN: U.S. Senate candidate Johnnie Byrd replaced his radio ads last week with what he called a gesture of respect for a hero, former President Ronald Reagan. Byrd aired a 60-second spot that was part Reagan tribute, part Byrd pitch for Byrd.
After touting Reagan's support for conservative principles, Byrd said, "The liberals and the news media attacked him relentlessly. Even some Republicans thought he was too outspoken and too controversial. But for us conservatives, Ronald Reagan proved that when we hold fast to our principles, we win."
ESCAMBIA GOES GOP: The Republican Party of Florida is celebrating one more county where Republicans outnumber Democrats. This time it is Escambia, which has been voting for Republicans for decades and where some high-profile Democrats have shifted to the GOP in recent years.
Statewide, Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 350,000. But in recent months, Walton, Bay and Sumter counties have seen Republican voter registration surpass Democrats. Escambia became the 27th "Republican county."
WORKING THE PHONES: Mel Martinez's U.S. Senate camp was grumbling last week about recorded phone calls from a shadowy doctor-financed group, criticizing his trial lawyer background. But somebody out there was dialing Republicans on Martinez's behalf, too. One voter who got a call said the message was the "reverse coattail" argument: Without Martinez on the GOP ticket in November, George Bush could lose Florida's 27 electoral votes and the presidency.
"It wasn't us," said Martinez's campaign spokeswoman, Jennifer Coxe.
- Times staff writers Carrie Johnson, Joni James, Steve Bousquet and Adam C. Smith contributed to this week's column. Got a tip? Call (727) 893-8241 or (850) 224-7263.