Bilirakis event next to rival causes heartburn

Published October 26, 2006

Of all of the restaurants Republican Gus Bilirakis could have chosen for a campaign event, he winds up next door to his Democratic opponent's headquarters.

So when Bilirakis arrived Tuesday night at Michael's Grill in Carrollwood, Phyllis Busansky and a throng of sign-waving supporters were waiting.

"I think it's pretty low-class and desperate," said Bilirakis' mother, Evelyn, who was there with her husband, U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis.

The candidate said he was not rattled. "I'm fine. ... This is a meet-and-greet. It's been wonderful," he said. "I'm not hiding."

Busansky didn't get the debate she wanted, but she did use video of Bilirakis' arrival for a Web-only ad.

Time to loosen purse

He's the wealthiest legislator in Tallahassee, but the Democratic attorney general candidate, state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, has spent almost no money since the Sept. 5 primary, records show.

Campbell has about $1.4-million to spend, but in the past five weeks he spent less than $18,000. And between Oct. 7 and Oct. 13 he spent nothing.

It's an unusual approach with less than two weeks before the Nov. 7 election, but it's about to change. "We're spending the money," said campaign manager Jeff Garcia, pointing to a television ad that hit airwaves last week.

Only 23 voters off

Pinellas Elections Supervisor Deborah Clark's office issued a new explanation Wednesday for discrepancies in the number of ballots cast in the Sept. 5 primary: It was poll worker error.

The watchdog group Voting Integrity Alliance of Tampa Bay found as many as 125 more voters signed in at one precinct than the machines counted. Nancy Whitlock, a spokeswoman for Clark, said sometimes voters sign in and then don't vote. Other times people vote without signing the register, she said.

But on Wednesday elections officials said poll workers incorrectly calculated the number of people who signed in to vote. The total number of discrepancies for all 376 precincts was 23, Whitlock said.

Fliers go 'nutty'

A new Republican flier calls Democratic candidate Bill Heller a "nutty professor" who is "brewing a toxic potion of ... higher taxes."

The ad, which was approved by Republican candidate Angelo Cappelli, features a picture of an old man with Albert Einstein hair, a potion in his hand.

It says Heller, a former dean of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, led a group that pushed through a tax referendum for schools and teacher pay raises.

"I'm proud of that effort," Heller said. "I'd expect a whole lot more from an Eagle Scout."

Cappelli, a bank trust adviser, defended the flier and took issue with a new Heller flier about stem cell research.

Cappelli said he opposes creating human embryos just to destroy them for stem cell research but supports using embryos left over from women who have undergone in-vitro fertilization.