tampabay.com

Kurt Browning bests Bergy

The elections supervisor wins a seventh term while overseeing the use of new touch screen voting machines.

By STEPHEN HEGARTY
Published November 3, 2004


Overseeing Pasco's 2004 election proved a challenge for Elections Supervisor Kurt Browning, what with the pressure of new voting machines and a closely watched presidential race.

His own re-election bid, however, was a breeze.

The 24-year incumbent on Tuesday won a seventh term in office, beating challenger Patrick Bergy by an overwhelming margin.

"I see this as a sign of trust in me, trust in my staff, and trust in our voting system," Browning said at the end of a long Election Day on Tuesday.

This year Browning, 46, faced his first opposition in 12 years. Along with the usual advantages of incumbency, he had much in his favor. Browning is a Dade City native with a squeaky clean reputation and a record of fast and accurate election results. Even after his much-publicized party switch in 2002 - when he switched from Democrat to Republican - Browning evidently remains popular among Pasco voters of all kinds.

Tuesday's election turned out to be a double dose of validation for Browning. The election appeared to run relatively smoothly in Pasco, and voters apparently approved of the job he's done until now, rewarding him with another four years.

Bergy, 38, was a political novice who entered the race to focus on two issues: eliminating partisanship among elections officials, and to challenge the reliability and accuracy of Pasco's new touch screen electronic voting machines.

Bergy could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Bergy's campaign was hampered by his lack of organized support, and by his trying to run a political campaign that was, in effect, a statement against political campaigns. He ran with no party affiliation, even though Pasco's Democratic party pledged support if he would run as a Democrat.

Bergy ran a particularly combative campaign. He filed formal complaints against his opponent and against a Democratic Party official. He also posted self-written screeds on his Web site decrying the potential shortcomings of electronic voting machines and lamenting the lack of media coverage of his campaign. He even picketed in front of a television station in Tampa demanding equal time for his campaign.

Even after his defeat appeared certain, Bergy pledged to continue to work to eliminate partisanship in elections supervisor races in the future.