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Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections

An incumbent who cites advancements in technology and vote-tallying faces a challenger who accuses the department of incompetence and corruption.

By LARRY DOUGHERTY

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Incumbent Pam Iorio, a Democrat, is seeking her third term as supervisor of elections. She has drawn an opponent for the first time, a professional engineer named Joe Robinson.

Iorio says one of her top accomplishments has been computerizing the process by which political candidates report their campaign finances. Lists of contributors and campaign expenditures are now available on the Internet (http://

www.votehillsborough.org), the first such service to be provided by any elections supervisor in Florida, Iorio said.

"What I've tried to do with the office in the last eight years is modernize it and make it more user friendly," Iorio said.

One area that has been a problem in the past is the speed with which ballots are counted on election night. Mechanical difficulties involving the punch-card ballots and the time required to collect ballots across a county the size of Hillsborough have resulted in late returns. Iorio said she has worked to improve the time it takes for votes to be counted.

"Now we're on par with Pinellas," she said. In fact, Hillsborough's returns were completed before Pinellas' during the Sept. 5 primary.

Iorio's name is sometimes mentioned as a candidate for mayor of Tampa. She wouldn't say much about that. "You never know," Iorio said.

Joe Robinson, Iorio's Republican challenger, is an engineer who often speaks out on African-American issues and minority access to government contracting. Robinson has a personal stake in his bid to succeed Iorio. Robinson says he blames corruption and incompetence by Iorio and her staff for his loss in the March 1999 Tampa City Council elections.

The official tally gave Robinson 11 percent of the total -- 579 votes -- in a City Council race won by Gwen Miller. Robinson disputed those figures, saying Iorio's deputies mishandled ballots and violated poll security. Robinson sued Iorio, but a judge dismissed the lawsuit. Iorio said there never was anything wrong in the first place.

"I believe there's been corruption in the past," Robinson said recently. "I'm alleging that it's going to happen in this race too."

Robinson has financed much of his campaign himself. Besides last year's campaign, Robinson lost another bid the Tampa City Council in 1995. In years past, Robinson has battled with city officials over millions of dollars worth of fines and code-enforcement liens on rental property owned by Robinson and his mother. Robinson said the liens led him to file for bankruptcy several times.

THE JOB

The supervisor administers all elections in Hillsborough County, registers voters, updates registration lists and provides absentee ballots. The supervisor also is responsible for qualifying county candidates and handling campaign finance reports. The term is four years. The annual salary is $111,000.

REPUBLICAN

JOE ROBINSON, 46, was born in Lakeland and has lived in Tampa all his life. He graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1977. He was a mechanical engineer for Tampa Electric Co. from 1979 to 1985. He has been a licensed professional engineer in Florida since 1982. He is president of a consulting engineering firm, RHC & Associates. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus and the USS Forrestal Sea, Air & Space Museum Inc. Robinson is divorced and has one child. ASSETS: real estate. LIABILITIES: mortgages, charge card judgment, legal fees. SOURCE OF INCOME: engineering firm, residential rental property.

DEMOCRAT

PAM IORIO, 41, was born in Waterville, Me. Her family moved to Temple Terrace when she was an infant. She received a political science degree from American University in Washington, D.C., in 1981. She was the youngest person ever to serve as a Hillsborough County commissioner; elected in 1985 at age 25. Iorio was a member of the first chartered home-rule county commission, which followed in the wake of the 1983 bribery scandal. She was re-elected to the County Commission in 1988. In 1992, Iorio became elections supervisor. She is president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. She is a member of the Advisory Council of the Tampa Bay History Center, and is on the American Victory Ship Board of Directors. She is married and has two children. ASSETS: home, savings and retirement accounts. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: supervisor's salary, dividends and stock sales.

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