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Making their cases by mailbox

In the Republican primary for District 50, Ed Hooper and Nancy Riley take issue with each other's mailers.

By DEMORRIS A. LEE
Published September 4, 2006


CLEARWATER - In the final days before the state House District 50 Republican primary between Ed Hooper and Nancy Riley, the gloves have come off.

But the battle isn't a verbal one, like an old-fashioned face-to-face debate. Instead, the sparring has come in the mailings in the final weeks, which ask who's the true Republican, raise ethics issues and question the opponent's stance on civil unions.

"I don't think I've done anything but tell the truth," said Riley, a real estate agent and longtime Republican activist. "Probably, these last couple days, everybody is sick of getting them mailers. I'm just trying to get out my message that I'm the one true Republican."

Hooper, a retired Clearwater firefighter and former City Council member, said the mailers might be somewhat effective and that nearly all the candidates are sending them.

But he said they should be accurate, and he says that hasn't been the case.

In a recent mailing, Riley said that Hooper's company, the Consus Group LLC, "is in the business of compiling dossiers on hundreds of business. These profiles provide extensive information on virtually every aspect of a company."

The mailing said that Hooper, therefore, would be "a government employee in the business of selling company secrets."

Riley, however, apparently got the information from a Web site of a California company that has the same name. It's a company that Hooper said he has no connection with. He said his company doesn't even have a Web site.

"If you are going to do a negative mail piece, make sure your allegations are correct and give a source of where your information comes from," Hooper said.

Riley acknowledged Friday that she made a mistake on the mailing about Hooper's company and said she would correct it on her Web site.

But Riley has issues with Hooper's mailings as well. In a postcard that arrived in mailboxes late last week, Hooper offers his stance on a variety of issues, including amnesty for illegal aliens, adoptions by same-sex couples, and abortions in the second and third trimesters. He then says Riley is either undecided on or supports the issues.

"He doesn't have documentation (supporting the mailing) except some Web site where I didn't think the question was a yes or no answer," Riley said of the issues Hooper raised. "I would rather have people come ask me about the issues he says I was undecided on. I have my cell phone number on my literature and I answer my phone myself and I'm happy to answer myself for people to clarify."

Hooper or Riley will face Democrat Candice Jovan in the Nov. 7 general election. The winner will fill the seat that's being vacated by Kim Berfield, who is running for state Senate.

District 50 covers parts of Clearwater, Largo and Safety Harbor.

"It's going to come down to who the people of Pinellas County think can best serve them in Tallahassee with fresh ideas on how to approach problems," Riley said. "... In the mailer, you can say things and twist and turn them around, but I'm very proud of my long involvement in helping the citizens in this county."

Hooper said he, too, has worked hard in the community for years and that he's using the mailers for one reason.

"I'm going to point out some differences," he said.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at (727) 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com

THE CANDIDATES

Ed Hooper, 59, was educated in public schools in North Carolina, where he was born. He attended St. Petersburg Junior College, where he studied emergency medicine and fire science. He worked as a firefighter for four years in Statesville, N.C., and then for 24 years in Clearwater. He served on the Clearwater City Commission from 1996 to 2000, when he ran for state House District 50 and was defeated by Kim Berfield in the Republican primary. He is married and has two adult children.

ASSETS: Home, IRA, savings accounts, automobiles, jewelry.

LIABILITIES: Small mortgage and one car loan.

SOURCE OF INCOME: Pension from the city of Clearwater and partnership in the Consus Group, a limited liability company that provides government and community relations consulting.

WEB SITE: www.edhooper2006.com

Nancy J. Riley, 58, was born in Pittsburgh and has worked for 33 years as a licensed real estate agent. Since 2000, she has been the Republican state committeewoman for Pinellas County. She is president-elect of the Florida Association of Realtors. She is married and has four grown daughters.

ASSETS: Home, stocks, bonds, jewelry, furnishings, car.

LIABILITIES: House payment.

SOURCE OF INCOME: Realtor's business.

WEB SITE: www.electnancy.com

THE JOB

State House District 50 covers parts of Clearwater, Largo and Safety Harbor. Representatives serve two years and are paid $30,996 per year.