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Campaign arbiter not ready to go

As the chairman of a Pinellas campaign oversight group goes on vacation, a member looks for a replacement.

By ALICIA CALDWELL

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 28, 2001


A citizens committee that investigates reports of campaign wrongdoing is involved in a little political intrigue of its own.

While the chairman of the Pinellas Citizens for Fair Campaign Practices committee was in Minnesota on vacation, a member of the group began searching for his replacement. The chairman, he said, wanted to resign. Trouble is, the chairman had no intention of stepping down.

Ray Aden, a member of the non-partisan group that mediates campaign disputes between local candidates, said it was his understanding that Chairman Darryl Paulson wanted to resign. Aden said he thought it was a good idea because Paulson appeared not to have enough time to devote to the organization.

"The pols are predicting that the 2002 election cycle will be long and nasty," committee member Ray Aden wrote in a letter to Paulson. "I commend you for letting your desire to step down be known, and advise you that I will be working with a group of interested people to search for a qualified individual who has the necessary time ..."

Paulson, who has chaired the group for nearly three years, said he had no such intention.

"I have no idea what Ray's talking about, to be honest," Paulson said. "I've made it quite clear that I don't want to have the position forever, but I have no intention of stepping down immediately. All of the members of the board have said they wanted me to stay on for at least some time."

In an interview, Aden said he did not know Paulson was out of town when he began the search. Aden, who helped create the committee and served as its executive director until 1998, said he thought that Paulson's departure would be a good thing since Paulson appeared to have too many other commitments.

"He indicated, and that's the word that came to me, that he wanted to step down," said Aden, who was chairman of the Pinellas Republican Party from 1975 to 1981.

Paulson said the position is unpaid and does require quite a bit of work, but he feels an obligation to the other board members to stay.

The group is a voluntary bipartisan committee that seeks to eliminate misleading campaigning, but it has no official power.

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