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    Dillinger holds off challenge by ex-staffer


    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2000


    Complete election coverage is one click away

    Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger appeared headed to a convincing re-election victory late Tuesday, beating back a feisty challenge by a former employee, Cimos Angelis.

    With vote tallies still coming in at 9:30 p.m., Dillinger led by a more than 2-to-1 ratio over Angelis with more than half of the precincts counted.

    Angelis raised more money than his former boss and appeared at times to put Dillinger on the defensive with the same kind of attacks Dillinger used on his former boss, Robert Jagger, in the 1996 campaign.

    But in the end, the one page Angelis couldn't duplicate from Dillinger's 1996 campaign play book was a victory over an incumbent.

    For Dillinger, 49, of St. Petersburg, who worked as an assistant Pinellas-Pasco public defender for Jagger from 1976 to 1981, a win would bring a second four-year term.

    Despite what appeared to be an insurmountable lead early in the evening, Dillinger wasn't ready to declare victory just yet.

    "I just want to wait until it's over," Dillinger said. Angelis, 38, of Tarpon Springs, who resigned as an assistant public defender in July to make his run against Dillinger, attacked Dillinger for accepting campaign contributions from his own employees.

    Dillinger ended up refunding more than $11,000 in contributions from employees after a report by the St. Petersburg Times noted that he had pledged in the race against Jagger never to take employee money if elected.

    Angelis also hit Dillinger hard on other issues that were reminiscent of Dillinger's 1996 attacks on Jagger, including complaints about the incumbent not personally trying cases.

    Angelis acknowledged Tuesday that he appeared headed toward defeat.

    "Well, that's what the voters wanted," he said. "I don't know what else to say. We did everything we could. We campaigned as hard as we could."

    Dillinger, a graduate of the Stetson University College of Law, ran on a record of legal innovation and cost savings to taxpayers.

    Dillinger said he managed to hire about 24 additional employees in his office without significant increases to his budget.

    But he said he was proudest of other achievements, including the outcome of a first-degree murder case against a Pasco County resident. Prosecutors were forced to drop the charge after an aggressive defense led by Dillinger.

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