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Lutz guv'na campaigns lurch into gear

Bribe or buss, guv'na candidates offer those at the LutzFest a charitable choice.

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001


LUTZ -- Mark Carnes says make no mistake: He's a crooked politician and he can be bought.

As a candidate for guv'na, he knows that's what it will take to become Lutz's mock chief of state. And he's fully prepared. So is everyone else.

Carnes and his opponents met in front of the Lutz library on Saturday to kick off the community's annual guv'na race. Candidates kissed, told fortunes and, of course, begged for campaign bucks.

Proceeds from their campaigns go to local charities, including the Lutz Boy Scouts and Joshua House, a transitional home for abused children. The top money-raiser becomes guv'na on July 4. Last year's competition netted nearly $12,000.

Candidates used LutzFest to raise money and just get goofy.

Helen Kinyon recruited her husband, Bob, to dress up as Fatima, the fortune teller, who wore a beaded bodice, hoop earrings and a long blond wig. Her daughter gave kisses for a buck.

"Whew, she smacked one on me," said Carnes, a Little League coach, who plans to sell sausage hoagies to build his war chest. "I've never been kissed by a country girl. Just a city girl."

Karen Cuervo tossed her hat into the race because it seemed a fun way to help Lutz. She pulled in dollars as the "Funky Diva," giving face paintings to children and holding a bikini contest for babes. As in little kids.

"I wanted to get involved in the community and get crazy for a little while," she said.

Sponsored by the Lutz Sertoma Club, LutzFest featured a karaoke contest and country rock concert. Candidates competed in a "triathlon," which included a watermelon-seed spitting contest. They also built towers of marshmallows and toothpicks.

Participants said the festival offered the entire community a fun way to get together for worthy causes. All of the candidates, including Juanita Dennis, Dave May, William Nehls and Larry O'Brien, gave money to each other.

"I'm supporting everybody," Carnes said as he dashed from booth to booth dropping dollars in jars. "I'm going to win anyway."

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