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A Segway into Capitol politics

In a district that covers a large area, one candidate changes the way she pounds the pavement.

Published May 2, 2006

[Times photo: Willie J. Allen Jr.]
Seminole Mayor Dottie Reeder rides her Segway early Saturday as she canvases the streets of a Seminole suburb. Reeder is seeking the Republican nomination for State House District 51.

SEMINOLE - For most political candidates, sore muscles from walking neighborhoods is a fact of life, but Mayor Dottie Reeder has found a way to preserve her feet and cover more territory.

She's campaigning on a Segway. The "human transporter," as the company calls it, is a two-wheeled vehicle that looks something like an old push lawn mower.

Reeder thinks the battery-powered vehicle will give her a slight edge over Bruce Cotton, her primary opponent for the House District 51 seat, and, if she wins that, her Democratic opponent in the general election. That would be either Janet Long or Mike Smith.

"The advantage that I feel like I'm getting from it is being able to go from door to door a little longer," said Reeder, 57.

Having served as Seminole mayor for 17 years, she's accustomed to walking neighborhoods to drum up support from the city's 18,000 residents.

But House District 51, which meanders from Seminole to South Pasadena and contains parts of Largo, Pinellas Park, Lealman and St. Petersburg, has about 133,000 residents.

She was not looking forward to the worn shoe leather, blistered feet and aching calves she would get from trekking door-to-door.

Then she and her husband, Larry, saw Segways while on a trip to Washington, D.C., last year, and he suggested she get one. She used campaign funds to buy one in November for $5,300 and she's been using it ever since.

It's certainly turning heads.

"That's the ticket! That's the way to travel right there," said Pat Pace, a resident of the Seminole-Largo area. Pace and a co-worker were putting together a cabinet in the driveway of a home in the Seminole Lakes Country Club on Saturday when Reeder wheeled out of a driveway across the street.

"That's cool," Pace said.

John McGlone, who signed a petition to put Reeder on the ballot, said his decision had nothing to do with her transportation, although approved.

"I think it's a good idea. It really cuts down on the walking," McGlone said. "We should all get them."

The downside, he said, is the lack of exercise.

But Reeder said she still gets plenty.

Reeder is not the first candidate to use the Segway to get around during campaigns, said Carla Vallone, spokeswoman for the New Hampshire company. Candidates in Maryland, California, North Carolina and Nebraska have used one.

[Last modified May 2, 2006, 15:22:44]

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