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Candidates woo voters to paltry ballot


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 30, 2000

Imagine inviting 85 people to a party. You'd have to get out the invitations. And make arrangements to handle the guests.

Now imagine that six people show.

Multiply that by a factor of 1,000 and apply it to the state House 54 race, and you're looking at a likely scenario for Tuesday's election.

The seat, which represents a strip of the gulf coast from Clearwater to Pass-a-Grille, is the only contest on the ballot, and turnout is predicted to be low. Two Republicans, John Carassas and Dave Miller, emerged from the four-man primary to vie in the runoff election.

They've been out banging on doors. Lots of 'em.

"I'm on my second pair of Nikes, and they're just about worn out," Miller said.

The candidates will take any opportunity to shake a hand or two because in this race, with turnout predicted in the 7 to 8 percent range, a couple hundred votes could sway the contest. Since no Democrat is running, all voters who live in the district get to vote, and the winner takes the seat.

"If they want to pick their next state representative, they need to go out and vote," Carassas said.

Jack Hebert, a Clearwater-based political consultant working for Miller, said the candidates are working to drum up interest in the election.

"It's really weird," Hebert said. "We're hoping somebody goes to the polls."

* * *

Karl Nurse is serious. Very serious.

The candidate for St. Petersburg mayor says there is nothing wrong with running government like a business.

Over lunch at the Ovo Cafe this week, he chatted for 90 minutes about the most dense of municipal issues: revising the city's zoning codes, streamlining the permitting process, property tax revenues and the city plan to repair the storm sewer system.

Nurse, a former city planning commission chairman who has been active in the Old Southeast neighborhood association, says he wants to run the city like he runs his company, Bay Tech Label Inc.

If Mayor David Fischer runs for re-election in March as expected, he will have serious competition for the policy-wonk vote.

* * *

What do you think state Rep. Larry Crow says about his enemies?

In an interview this week with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board, the head of the Pinellas legislative delegation was candid, sometimes startlingly so, in describing fellow Pinellas Republicans.

In regard to how much it would cost to make meaningful improvements on U.S. 19, he said the $100-million slotted for road construction in 2009 was "nothing." It will take more like $500-million.

He said Jim Sebesta, vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, "sold Pinellas County down the river for regionalism" when it came to road money.

Gov. Jeb Bush's Mobility 2000 plan calls for the overhaul of Interstate 275 in Tampa from the intersection of Interstate 4 to the Howard Frankland Bridge, a whopping $422-million in road building.

Until somebody with Sebesta's postion fights for more U.S. 19 money -- or somebody such as Senate Majority Leader Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, forces him to -- it's not going to happen, Crow said.

"It could have happened," Crow said. "Latvala could have locked down on Jim Sebesta. Jim Sebesta is Latvala's boy."

Sebesta laughed when he learned of Crow's comments. He said more money for U.S. 19 is in the works, and Crow must have been joking.

"Take what he's telling you with a grain of salt," Sebesta said. "That gets funnier by the minute."

Crow also had some blunt words for Paul Bedinghaus, head of the county Republican Party, whom he called very conservative despite the moderate leanings of most Pinellas Republicans.

"Paul and I, to tell you the truth, we don't get along," Crow said. "He takes these hard-core positions."

Crow, of Palm Harbor, is seeking a fourth term. His opponent in November's election is Democrat Sue Humphreys.

"That's curious," said Bedinghaus, after hearing of Crow's comments. "Those are mighty brave things to say."

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