A New Jersey political operative who has faced repeated accusations of election fraud recently went to work for the John Kerry presidential campaign in Pinellas County.
Craig Callaway, who is also a part-time city council president in Atlantic City, was asked to leave the Kerry-Edwards campaign late last week, the campaign said.
"We heard some of the stories from New Jersey and just decided it was in the best interests of the campaign," Kerry-Edwards spokesman Matt Miller said.
He said Callaway left the campaign prior to the St. Petersburg Times inquiring about him last week, and he described Callaway as merely one of more than 1,000 door-to-door canvassers working for the campaign. He said Callaway only worked for the campaign two weeks.
In the hardscrabble communities in and around Atlantic City, Callaway is known as a colorful and highly controversial master of street level politics - especially at producing piles of last minute absentee ballots. His tactics have generated well-publicized suspicions and accusations of election fraud, though he never has been charged, let alone convicted, of any election-related wrongdoing.
"I am a decent human being who abides by the law of the land," Callaway said in a brief telephone interview in which he declined to discuss his work with the Kerry campaign.
A civil court judge last year voided Callaway's city council election, concluding that more than 200 votes Callaway received came from forged or fraudulent absentee ballots. The election "was so contaminated by fraud and misconduct that the mathematical result must be rendered in doubt," the judge said.
A judge also overturned another election won by his brother in a nearby town because of similar questions about the legitimacy of absentee ballots.
In Pinellas, Kerry-Edwards spokesman Miller said, Callaway was a low-level canvasser, going door to door to mobilize Democrats. Hundreds of out-of-state volunteers have come to Florida to help on the campaign.
"We hired him as a canvasser, just as we hired over 1,000 people as canvassers," Miller said. "He didn't have a supervisory role or any role in our absentee program."
Kerry's Florida campaign director, Tom Shea, is also a veteran Democratic operative in New Jersey, having served as chief of staff of New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine and worked on the campaign of Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
Shea said he had never met Callaway and had nothing to do with his work on the Florida effort.
"I've heard of him," Shea said, "but only for the wrong reasons."