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Politics

Mayor candidate gets unlikely help

Some with drug pasts contribute to a man who led drug investigations.

By JANET ZINK
Published January 31, 2007


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TAMPA - For five years, Marion Lewis investigated drug crimes for the Tampa Police Department.

Now, a handful of people charged with or convicted of drug violations are contributing to his campaign for mayor. Lewis said Tuesday he doesn't know any of the individuals personally.

"People contribute because they like the ideas of this campaign," he said.

Lewis has been stumping with the promise of helping "ordinary people," repeating often that Tampa is becoming a city "where the rich get richer and the poor are getting poorer."

"There is nothing wrong with being a criminal. What's wrong is if you remain a criminal," he said. "I'm not going to hold anything against anybody because they were arrested or in trouble with the law once upon a time. If God can forgive, who am I not to forgive?"

Lewis will face incumbent Mayor Pam Iorio and former fire Chief Aria Green in city elections March 6.

Among those contributing to Lewis' campaign:

- Willie McMillan, who according to state records pleaded guilty in 2000 to cocaine possession and contributed $65.

- Taurus Permer, who was arrested in July after police responded to a burglar alarm at his home and discovered 3 ounces of cocaine, 3 pounds of marijuana, and $15,800 in cash.

A month after his arrest. Permer contributed $55 to Lewis' campaign. He contributed another $70 in October.

James Archer, Permer's boss at Big Boys Barber Shop, gave $65 to Lewis. And Permer's grandmother and aunt contributed $125 and $55, respectively, to Lewis' run for mayor.

Permer is scheduled to go to court in March. He said Tuesday he knew Lewis had headed Tampa's narcotics bureau, and learned about the ex-cop's run for mayor from a friend.

"I went to a couple of his campaign parties. He seems like a good person. A truthful person," Permer said.

Lewis joined Tampa's police force more than 25 years ago.

He moved through the ranks of the department and in 2002 was tapped to lead street level drug crime investigations. In 2004, he was promoted to head of the narcotics bureau.

In August 2004, Lewis helped uncover a drug ring in a public housing complex that led to 52 arrests. Lewis also recently helped craft a police program designed to help ex-cons re-enter society.

Lewis left the Police Department Jan. 19 after city officials, who cited a state law, said he needed to resign to run for mayor because Iorio is his boss.

Lewis refused to sign resignation papers, arguing that police Chief Steve Hogue runs the department, not Iorio. Lewis contends he was fired.

City officials have asked a judge to settle the dispute. Lewis says he plans to seek an injunction to reverse the city's actions and possibly sue the city.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.

Contributions from felons

Although felons cannot vote in Florida, they can contribute to political campaigns. The contributions to Marion Lewis from those with drug arrests and people connected with them add up to less than $500, and total only a small portion of Lewis' campaign funds. Lewis raised $18,000 from Jan. 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2006. More than $5,300 came from people who work in the Tampa Police Department.

[Last modified January 31, 2007, 05:48:43]


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