ISSUES OF TRUST: Kurt Browning, who oversaw a problem-free election in 2000, faces Patrick Bergy, who says he doesn't have faith in touch screen voting.
By STEPHEN HEGARTY
Published October 26, 2004
The same factors that make Kurt Browning want to keep his job after 24 years are what prompted Patrick Bergy to launch a long shot challenge to replace him.
"Elections today are nothing like what they were four years ago," Browning said. After running Pasco's elections office since 1980, he said he is passionate about continuing his record of problem-free elections even with the new laws and new voting machines.
"People know Pasco can get it done and get it done right," Browning said. "That's why I'm still so neurotic about it."
Bergy is making his first run for elected office because he feels that with all the changes in elections it's time to change supervisors, too. He thinks his computer expertise makes him the man for the job.
"Over the last 20 years, Pasco didn't really need someone with my experience running the elections office," Bergy said. "But now that's what's needed."
Browning is running on his experience. His slogan is "Experience You Can Trust."
Bergy is focusing on the issue of voting machines, an area of acute concern after the 2000 presidential election fiasco in Florida. Bergy doesn't trust the machines.
During the infamous 2000 recounts, Pasco didn't have the problems other counties had. Still, subsequent election reforms have pushed counties to adopt new procedures and to buy new voting machines.
Bergy faults Browning's decision to rely on touch screen voting machines, contending he should have opted for optical scan machines. Bergy has tapped into a debate being played out statewide and nationally, as voter advocates and prominent Democrats have argued that touch screens are vulnerable to hackers and mechanical failures.
"I'm a computer person and based on what I know, I don't have that kind of confidence in those machines," Bergy said.
Browning defends his confidence in the touch screen voting machines. Contrary to what critics say, he says, the machines can recreate a record of votes cast in case of a recount. Whatever recent problems have plagued elections in Florida - such as glitches in Hillsborough County - have been attributed to old-fashioned human error, not the voting machines.
Browning dismisses Bergy's criticism, saying his opponent is not the voting machine expert he claims to be.
Bergy also faults Browning for changing political parties in 2002, when the longtime Democrat switched to the Republican Party. Bergy is running with no party affiliation, a move that has hindered his ability to raise money for the campaign. But he says he feels there should be no questions about the political motivations of the person in charge of counting votes.
Browning explained his move as a personal decision, saying he became disenchanted with the left-leaning wing of the Democratic Party. The switch, he said, does not affect how he approaches his job.
The supervisor of elections administers government elections in Pasco County and oversees a budget of $2.5-million. Pasco's elections supervisor serves a four-year term and the job pays $107,613 annually.
KURT BROWNING, 46, was first elected Pasco County's supervisor of elections in 1980. He is a Dade City native and graduated from Pasco Comprehensive High School, Pasco-Hernando Community College and the University of South Florida, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in public administration. Browning has been active in the United Way, the Kiwanis Club, Leadership Pasco and the Boy Scouts of America. He served on Gov. Jeb Bush's task force on election procedures. Browning is married and has two children. ASSETS: home, vehicles, cash, insurance. LIABILITIES: mortgage, loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary.
PATRICK BERGY, 38, is a computer network administrator for Florida Heart & Vascular in Tampa. He was born and raised in Michigan and moved to Florida in 1980. He has lived in New Port Richey since 2000. Bergy is a self-described, largely self-taught computer expert, and has Microsoft certification. He is working toward an associate's degree at St. Petersburg College. Bergy is married and has two children. ASSETS: household goods and personal effects, computers. LIABILITIES: credit cards, loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary. WEB SITE: www.savethevote.com