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Clerk of court candidate kicked off ballot

Floyd Lombardi can get back in the race if he can show his voting rights have been restored.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2000


A candidate for Hernando County's clerk of court has been booted off the ballot because of a felony conviction that officials say makes him ineligible to vote or hold office.

But the campaign of Floyd Lombardi, who recently was charged with slapping a high-ranking sheriff's official at the county fair, is not necessarily dead.

Supervisor of Elections Ann Mau said Thursday that Lombardi, 48, may re-enter the race by doing one of two things: proving that his voting rights have been restored in Georgia, the state where he committed the felony; or by applying for his rights to be restored in Florida. He has until noon on July 21 to do this.

"Until he gets this problem solved, he can't qualify to vote," Mau said. "And if he can't qualify to vote . . . he can't qualify for office."

Lombardi, however, said Thursday he is unsure whether he will make this extra effort. He said he wants to clear up the newest accusation against him -- the charge that he hit Maj. Richard Nugent in February when the two were arguing over an investigation into a bar fight -- before he deals with a crime he was convicted of more than a decade ago.

"Right now, it's all up in the air," said the former hairdresser.

Lombardi, a Democrat and a member of the party's executive committee in Hernando, had sought to challenge incumbent Karen Nicolai, a Republican.

In 1986, he was sentenced to five years' probation for being a driving habitual violator, which means he was convicted at least three times during five years of a combination of driving offenses, including drunken driving. Officials learned of the conviction only after Brooksville police arrested him in connection with the Nugent incident.

The state attorney's office considered charging Lombardi with voter fraud when prosecutors discovered he had registered to vote in Hernando County without having his rights restored here. But they decided not to pursue charges after Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto determined that Lombardi was confused about his voting status and did not intend to deceive anyone.

Ideally, Lombardi now says, he would like to be found innocent of hitting Nugent, then get his felony conviction in Georgia expunged, and then prove that his voting rights have been restored there.

"I'm not going to play Catch-22 and get a felony cleared up in Georgia and then have to clear up a felony in Florida," he said.

In Florida, a felon must apply for his rights to be restored. But in Georgia, this happens automatically. To requalify as a candidate, Lombardi would simply have to get documentation that this is, in fact, what happened.

But Lombardi indicated Thursday that he resents having to do this.

"(Ann Mau) wants me to do all the footwork and get all the information for her," he said.

Instead of trying to get documentation of his restored rights, Lombardi said he has contacted lawyers in Georgia to get his record deleted, even though this might have no effect on his ability to run for office now that officials know of the conviction.

Mau, who informed Lombardi about a month ago that she would need to see documentation of his voting rights if he still wanted to run, said she finds Lombardi's situation highly unusual.

"I've never had to deal with something like this before," she said.

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