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State Democratic chief reunites with strategist

By WILL VAN SANT
Published August 2, 2006


TOGETHER AGAIN: Pinellas County's new Democratic Party chairman, Ed Helm, hasn't yet shown himself to be a winner, but he certainly is a doer.

Last weekend, days after being elected party leader, he brought into town the man who helped manage his losing campaign for St. Petersburg mayor last year, Democratic National Committee member Jon Ausman of Tallahassee.

"All candidates, their key volunteers, campaign managers and advisers are encouraged to schedule a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Ausman," Helm wrote in an e-mail to Democrats on Friday.

Helm said Ausman, an experienced strategist known for bucking the state party establishment, would travel between Tallahassee and Pinellas during campaign season, advising local campaigns.

Of course, the state party already has a man of its own on the ground in Tampa Bay, Kevin C. King, whose job is to help coordinate local Democratic efforts.

Some tensions are possible.

REPUBLICAN-BAITING: In an e-mail exchange last week, former Democratic Party head Carrie Wadlinger and County Commission candidate Norm Roche traded blasts, each suggesting the other had dallied with the Republican Party.

After Roche, a Democrat in the District 2 primary against incumbent Calvin Harris, wrote an e-mail defending himself against a critical St. Petersburg Times editorial, Wadlinger wrote back, referring to a meeting a year ago during which the possibility of Roche's running as a Republican was discussed.

That sparked a call from the Junkie. As both Roche and Wadlinger remember the meeting, Brian E. Roche, Norm's brother whose recent filing as a write-in candidate in the District 2 general election has caused a stir, floated the following idea:

Why shouldn't Norm run as a Republican? He's a strong candidate and can get the GOP and its dollars to support him.

Norm Roche says he rejected the idea, saying that as a proud Democrat he could not abandon the party to further his own electoral ambitions. Wadlinger seconds that account.

But the baiting was not over.

Norm Roche then wrote that he had recently spoken with a "prominent local elected" Republican who said he had several lunch meetings with Wadlinger, discussing with her the best way to manage the Democratic Party.

In response, Wadlinger forced Roche's hand, asking him to name the Republican as well as the dates and places of the alleged luncheons.

"It serves no purpose," Roche wrote back, "to name names. I will tell you it was a chance meeting in front of a government building."

HIBBARD'S BUZZ: Mayor Frank Hibbard's new cut has been turning heads at Clearwater City Hall. The man with the well-groomed salt and pepper hair has been sporting the semibald look.

What happened Frank?

"Well, I went on vacation to my sister's cottage up in Michigan for a few days, so I decided to shave my head. It's great to need just a bar of soap and a towel. Plus, I was getting back at my wife for all the unusual haircuts she has come home with."

The shaved head may have been a hit in Michigan, but Hibbard won't be maintaining the look.

"I'm letting it grow back as we speak," he said. "We ought to be back to normal in another month."

U.S. SENATE CANDIDATES TO APPEAR: On Friday, the Belleair Women's Republican Club will hear from U.S. Senate candidates LeRoy Collins Jr., Katherine Harris, Peter Monroe and William McBride, all of whom are running for the chance to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. It's being held at the Wine Cellar, 17307 Gulf Boulevard in North Redington Beach. The gathering starts with a noon lunch. To make reservations, call Cynthia Bie at 727-596-5025, Faye Wyatt at 727-595-3098 or Dorothy VonRoh at 727-596-1926.

Times staffers Adam C. Smith and Will Van Sant contributed to this week's Junkie. For more political buzz go to www.sptimes.com/blogs/buzz. Staff can be contacted at politicaljunkie@sptimes.com.

[Last modified August 2, 2006, 07:32:34]


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