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House member accuses GOP of 'terrorist tactics'

State Rep. Lois Frankel says Democrats will not be intimidated and will stage a comeback.

By LUCY MORGAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- Republican legislators are using "terrorist tactics" to intimidate Democrats and discourage them from even running for office, says Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.

"Republicans don't own this state and they don't own the political process," Frankel said Thursday at a press conference called to tout the qualifications of Democrats who will seek legislative seats around the state.

"Lois sounds desperate to me," said Rep. Jerry Maygarden, R-Pensacola. "She wants headlines."

Frankel says House Democrats have reorganized and pulled their act together for the first time since they lost a legislative majority in 1996.

House Republicans outnumber Democrats 75 to 45, but Frankel says she believes Democrats will "come back to a position of prominence." She doesn't predict they'll regain control of the House.

Maygarden, majority leader in the House, says he believes the margin will remain about the same or Republicans will pick up a couple of seats.

Frankel said two Democrats who would have run against Maygarden were intimidated and decided not to, but she has a "secret" candidate who will qualify today before the noon deadline. She wouldn't disclose the candidate's name, saying she didn't want anything to happen to that person.

"Maygarden will have an opponent," Frankel promised. "We won't allow the democratic process to be subverted by having people threatened out of races."

Some Democrats who have faced attempts to intimidate them into dropping out of legislative races are remaining in the fight, Frankel said.

Among them is Glenda Conley, an Oveido Democrat who says House Speaker-Designate Tom Feeney fired a travel agent who donated $50 to her campaign and used other intimidation tactics.

Conley said someone dropped off a packet of information detailing her son's 14-year-old retail theft arrest in an apparent effort to intimidate her.

Feeney could not be reached for comment Thursday, but recently told the Orlando Sentinel that he didn't want an opponent's supporter making his travel plans.

In other areas, Republican legislators have threatened lobbyists who donated money to Democrats, Frankel said. She cited a memo written by Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

That memo, sent to Republican House members on July 6, called attention to a fundraiser Miami lobbyist Bob Levy gave for Rep. Elaine Bloom, a Miami Beach Democrat who is running for Congress. The memo noted that Levy was assisting U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt in an effort to oust U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, a Fort Lauderdale Republican. "Can you believe he has the nerve to send a memo like that?" Frankel asked. "Every time a lobbyist makes a contribution to a Democrat, they get called on the carpet."

Fasano said the memo was written to encourage Republican candidates "to stick together" and was not an attempt to intimidate anyone. "It's quite sad that Lois is having to blame others for the lack of quality candidates that she was able to get to run for office," Fasano added.

In St. Petersburg, the Democrats have former Reps. Mary Brennan and Margo Fischer seeking House seats now held by Reps. Frank Farkas and Leslie Waters. Frankel said she believes both Democrats have a good chance of winning.

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