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Election 2004

Bubba to run for Pinellas sheriff

The ex-radio host plans to give the office "back to the people." An opponent suspects ulterior motives.

Published July 17, 2004

TAMPA - Less than five months after Bubba the Love Sponge Clem was fired by Clear Channel Communications, the defrocked shock jock was back in front of reporters announcing his latest surprise.

He wants to be the next sheriff of Pinellas County.

"For over a decade I've been the voice of the people," Clem said during a news conference Friday at the DoubleTree Hotel Tampa Westshore. "Now, I want to give the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office back to the people."

This will be the second time Clem, 38, has campaigned for the office. He was not an official candidate in 2000, but this time, because he paid the $8,584.86 filing fee, he will be on the ballot as the lone Democrat.

Clem will await the winner of the GOP primary between Chief Deputy Jim Coats and Tim Glassburner, a retired Ohio sheriff's deputy.

The former host of the area's most popular morning radio show, Clem was fired in February after the Federal Communications Commission levied a $755,000 fine for indecency against the four Clear Channel stations that carried his show.

On Friday, Clem blamed "good ol' boy" politics for his removal.

A lifelong Republican, Clem said he registered as a Democrat 60 days ago.

"I'm fed up with Republicans," he said.

The ballot will read "Bubba Clem," he said, even though his more famous radio name is his legal name.

"Bubba the Love Sponge is too entertainment," he said. "If it's Bubba Clem, people will still know who I am."

Sheriff Everett Rice, who is leaving the office to move to a state House seat, said he's sure Clem will have a "small following. But this guy has no experience and no credentials.

"But it's an elective office and anyone who can plop down the money is entitled to be on the ballot," Rice said. Coats thought it was joke when he learned Clem's name would be on the ballot. "But that's why we have a democracy," Coats said. "In this case, you wonder what the real motive is. In some respects, it's a scary thought that somebody like this could be sheriff."

Because Clem is running as a Democrat, he will force the Republican winner to spend at least some money campaigning against him in the Nov. 2 general election.

"But we can't afford to have somebody like that be in charge of public safety in Pinellas County," Coats said. "This is a law enforcement agency that employs almost 3,000 people and has an annual budget of about $225-million."

If nothing else, Clem is back in the news, a move that could generate publicity.

Radio personalty Dave McKay, co-host of the Randy and Dave show on WQYK-FM 99.5, said a growing number of people - about 2-million so far - subscribe to satellite radio, which is not regulated by the FCC.

"If Bubba resurfaces in radio, it'll probably be on satellite," McKay said Friday. "So this could be a way for him to keep his name in people's minds without using a transmitter."

- Times staff writer Tom Zucco contributed to this report.

[Last modified July 17, 2004, 01:00:37]

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