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Olson re-elected by wide margin

Mike Olson says challenger David "Hap'' Clark's attack ads backfired, leading to the landslide victory.

By ALISA ULFERTS

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2000


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NEW PORT RICHEY -- Tax Collector Mike Olson won a landslide re-election victory Tuesday over fellow Democrat David "Hap" Clark.

Olson's votes outnumbered Clark's by better than a 3-1 margin, ending the most contentious campaign of the season.

Olson, 55, attributed his success, in part, to the public's reaction to Clark's attack ads against him.

"It was a total rejection of the kind of campaign Hap and his cronies ran," Olson said Tuesday night from Leverock's Seafood House on U.S. 19.

"That's why the numbers were so high."

Clark, 78, who served the last eight years on the Pasco County Commission, could not be reached Tuesday.

Olson, who has held the office since 1980, sued Clark for more than $1-million last week after Clark mailed a flier that said Olson sexually harassed six former employees. Olson mailed out his own flier that called Clark "The Man Who Brought Gambling to Pasco County," a reference to property Clark rents out for gambling boats.

Except for the lawsuit, Clark accounts for most of the action: He filed to run for tax collector with 30 minutes to spare before the deadline after he'd filed preliminary papers to run for re-election as a county commissioner -- and after Olson said he supported Eileen Ferdinand for Clark's commission seat.

"I might get beat, but I'm having fun," Clark said the day after he and his brother took photos of Olson's and Ferdinand's cars outside the west Pasco government center on a Saturday afternoon. Olson and Ferdinand acknowledge meeting at the government center, but say they drove to a nearby Lowe's parking lot to discuss politics.

Aside from the personal sniping, very few tax collector issues were discussed by either candidate. Clark said it was time for a change in that office and as a man of integrity and dedication he's the one to make that change. Olson touted his success in running the office the past 20 years and his opening of several branch offices.

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