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Challenge to resignation date aims to keep Gallagher off ballot


© St. Petersburg Times, published August 12, 2000

TALLAHASSEE -- A lawyer who has frequently filed suit against the state is challenging Education Commissioner Tom Gallagher's right to seek election as state insurance commissioner.

In a letter filed shortly before 5 p.m. Friday with Secretary of State Katherine Harris, Karen Gievers contends that Gallagher violated a state law that requires him to resign by Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2001.

If he did not comply with the law, Gallagher could not legally qualify to run for office under the state's resign to run law.

Gallagher did submit a letter of resignation when he qualified to run for the U.S. Senate in May, but he made the effective date of his resignation Wednesday, Jan. 3, instead of Tuesday, Jan. 2. Gievers says that mistake should keep Gallagher off the ballot in November.

Clay Roberts, director of the State Division of Elections, said he will refer the question to his lawyers Monday before deciding who is right.

David Browning, finance director for the Gallagher campaign, does not think the challenge poses a problem.

"It just gives the Democrats something to complain about," he said.

Gallagher initially ran for the U.S. Senate but dropped out of that race and stepped into the insurance commissioner's race at the urging of Gov. Jeb Bush and other Republicans who wanted to leave U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum without a primary opponent.

Gallagher is unopposed in the Republican Primary for the insurance post, but he would face Democrat John Cosgrove in November if he remains on the ballot.

Gievers is a Tallahassee lawyer who has filed suit against the state several times on behalf of foster children. She also has run unsuccessfully for secretary of state and insurance commissioner.

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