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Political junkie

Elections supervisor's brochure quotes reviews that are a bit musty

By Times staff writers
Published October 16, 2004

In a campaign mailing last week, a brochure excerpted two local newspaper stories to show "what people are saying about Buddy Johnson," Hillsborough's appointed Republican supervisor of elections.

"Considering how elections go in Florida, Tuesday was a beauty," read the excerpt from the St. Petersburg Times. "Not a single precinct reported problems."

The brochure's quote from the Tampa Tribune reads, "Buddy Johnson's first solo flight counting votes as Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections went smoothly ..."

One problem: Both newspaper excerpts refer to the presidential primary in March, when just 38,308 voters cast ballots.

Five months later, when more than 138,000 voters turned out in Hillsborough for the Aug. 31 primary, things did not go so smoothly for Johnson's office.

A computer problem delayed vote tabulation until nearly dawn the day after the election. Then, more than two weeks after the election, Johnson's office discovered 245 votes were lost when a supervisor left an early voting machine in the "test" mode.

Johnson's brochure was silent about his office's performance in that election.

Friday, with references to the problems in the Aug. 31 primary, both newspapers endorsed Johnson's opponent, Democrat and computer programmer Rob MacKenna.

INFORMATION GAPS: Brian Blair, the Republican running for the District 6 seat on the Hillsborough Commission, puts on the wrestling tights for one of his first wide-scale mail pieces of the general election, taking a few digs at his opponent. A couple deserve an asterisk.

He notes that Democrat Bob Buckhornhas been endorsed by strip club king Joe Redner, who himself is running for the District 7 Commission seat. Blair, by contrast, has been endorsed by Hillsborough County firefighters and numerous family groups.

Redner, who clashed often with Buckhorn when he was a Tampa City Council member dreaming up rules to rein in strip clubs, is still no fan of his. But he did say he planned to vote for Buckhorn this election, mainly because he says Blair is a pawn of development interests. Buckhorn has received other endorsements as well, including from his primary opponent, Ed Austin, and Tampa firefighters.

Speaking of development interests, Blair also accuses Buckhorn of lobbying elected officials on behalf of big land developers. That's a reference to Buckhorn's days as director of governmental affairs for what was then called the Builders Association of Greater Tampa.

Buckhorn was not a registered lobbyist, though he did promote issues of common interest to builders. However, it should be noted that among Blair's endorsements is one from the latest incarnation of that same builders group, now the Tampa Bay Builders Association, which Buckhorn said never interviewed him. Comparatively, Blair enjoys greater backing from developers.

The flier says Buckhorn supports raising gasoline and sales taxes. In his detailed answer to a question from the St. Petersburg Times, Buckhorn said what he supports is a dedicating some funding source to improve transportation.

Finally, the flier notes Buckhorn has twice been rejected by voters, which is true. It doesn't note that he has twice been approved by them as a City Council member, and that Blair has also was rejected by voters the only time he ran for office - for a commission seat - two years ago.

SPEAKING OF MUSTY ... Buckhorn has mailed out his own flier, generally a soft piece. As in the primary, it looks similar to the ones he has put out in prior campaigns.

His point is to emphasize his government experience, compared with Blair's lack of it, saying "We can't afford on the job training."

But, aesthetically, the flier does feel a little recycled.

BUDDING REPORTERS? Early Friday morning, Gov. Jeb Bushsat on a stage outside De Soto Elementary School in Tampa, reading a book, The Lizard and the Sun, to a group of children. He read partly in English and partly in Spanish. He bantered with a nearby puppet that kept popping up.

The event was part of a statewide tour called Story Chasers, sponsored by Coca-Cola, that encourages children to read.

And while the children seemed interested in the book, they were far more interested in asking the governor personal questions.

They asked his age, his birthday, where he lives. They asked what food he doesn't like.

"I'm not a big broccoli eater," Bush said. Like father, like son.

One boy raised his hand and, mistaking one Bush for another, asked a different question.

"No, I'm not facing John Kerry," Bush answered. "That's my brother."

Times staff writers Jeff Testerman, Bill Varian and Brady Dennis contributed to this report.

[Last modified October 16, 2004, 01:00:34]


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