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Obama leaves a lasting impression

By JANET ZINK AND TIMES STAFF
Published April 17, 2007


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Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made a dramatic entrance to a rally Sunday that drew nearly 2,000 people to Ybor City. Obama walked onto a landing on the top floor of the Cuban Club, framed by a bright blue sky.

And who stood right behind him?

Tampa City Council member Gwen Miller, followed by her husband, former state Sen. Les Miller.

"It was exciting. I was just overwhelmed," Gwen Miller said. "He's a great contender. He knows the issues. He's alright."

Les Miller echoed those sentiments.

"When we walked down those stairs and saw the multitude of people, it was mind blowing. It was people from every walk of life, every race," he said.

The Millers were invited to a pre-rally meet-and-greet that included Tampa City Council members John Dingfelder and Mary Mulhern; St. Petersburg City Council member Ernest Williams; Chloe Coney, an aide to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor; and Tampa activists Abe Brown and Roy Blount.

Among the masses at the rally: City Council member Linda Saul-Sena, strip club owner and perennial candidate Joe Redner, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White.

White said he identifies with Obama on a personal level - both were raised by their mothers, have entered the world of politics, and have a wife and two children. White said he also shares Obama's opposition to the war in Iraq and other political principles.

 

Reports show who paid for mudslinging

In the final days of city elections last month, ElectionWatch-Florida sent out a series of campaign pieces attacking City Council candidate John Dingfelder.

The mailers derided Dingfelder as odd and arrogant, and blasted him for raising property taxes even though Dingfelder helped pass the city's first property tax rate cut in 20 years. One piece distorted a photo of Dingfelder to give him a devilish look.

Finance reports filed last week reveal who paid for the pieces.

One $25,000 donor is J.C. Davis Management Co. Inc., headed by Spencer Ford, who once leased office space from Hank Brown, the husband of Dingfelder opponent Julie Brown.

Brown, a former assistant city attorney for Tampa, said she didn't know until now who was behind ElectionWatch-Florida.

"I'm very disappointed in some of the folks that were involved," she said. "They didn't communicate with me because they knew I wouldn't have approved those types of messages."

McDonald's franchise owner Blake Casper, who hosted a fundraiser for Brown, also put $25,000 into Election-Watch Florida, as did Newton Herack, a company headed by R. Park Newton, who hosted Brown's campaign kickoff.

The final top-dollar donor: C.C. "Doc" Dockery, husband of Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland.

ElectionWatch-Florida is headed by Jack Hebert of the Mallard Group, the political consulting firm that helped manage the 2002 campaign of former Pinellas-Pasco Judge John Renke. Renke was booted from office, in part, for misleading campaign materials.

Brown lost the race to Dingfelder.

 

[Last modified April 17, 2007, 01:08:00]


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