Schmoozefest for Storms is more like a snoozefest

By Times staff writers
Published March 25, 2006

What if you had a meet-and-greet and no one showed up to meet or greet?

Something like that happened to County Commissioner Ronda Storms last week in Tallahassee when a major business lobby hosted what was meant to be a schmoozing opportunity for the state Senate candidate.

Neither Storms, who is running for the District 10 seat, nor a spokeswoman from the Retail Federation would say exactly how many people were there, but Storms described attendance as "marginal."

"It was certainly poorly planned," she said. "I was disappointed in the lobby."

Sally House, the Retail Federation's legislative coordinator, said the bust wasn't the lobby's fault.

"We just provide the facility," she said. "We don't have any input as to how many people are invited and how many show up."

Storms said the experience taught her something: "Who my friends are and who my enemies are. It confirms some things and reveals others."

Storms has typically run low-budget, grass roots campaigns. This time, some have speculated that the business lobby would support her.

Not necessarily, House said, noting, "We don't know who we will endorse or if we will endorse anyone."

Storms said she's not depending on an endorsement. "I've never been a favorite of the lobbyists," she said. "People tell me this is the Senate and I have to do things differently. But running for office is running for office."

Storms' competition for the GOP nomination includes former state Rep. Sandra Murman and Plant City businessman Ray Young. The only Democrat to file for the race so far is Stephen J. Gorham, a Navy veteran from Plant City.

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Kenny Faliero, husband of Hillsborough School Board member Jennifer Faliero, said Friday he is dropping out of the race to replace Storms, just a month after he began his campaign.

Faliero, 44, said he plans to formally withdraw his candidacy for Storms' District 4 seat Monday.

Faliero, a Republican and a physical education teacher at Progress Village Middle School, said the job would require too much time away from his wife and their two daughters.

"To do the job the right way, I would have no family time," he said. "I don't want to give up coaching. I don't want to give up teaching."

Faliero said he will continue helping his wife in her current bid for a second term.

The only other candidate to replace Storms on the commission so far is Al Higginbotham, who heads the county's Republican Executive Committee.

Staff writers S.I. Rosenbaum and Melanie Ave contributed to this report.