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    Hopefuls fight for attention

    By DAVID KARP

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 7, 2000


    TAMPA -- Inside her campaign headquarters Monday, Democratic state Senate candidate Kathy Castor was on the phone closing the deal.

    As her volunteers buzzed around her, Castor sat in a blue suit and black pumps, dialing up voters.

    "Hi. This is Kathy Castor," she said, smiling. "I am calling you to personally ask for your vote."

    Castor, the daughter of former University of South Florida President Betty Castor, was one of the lucky candidates Monday. Many people recognize her name. Most candidates on today's crowded ballot battled for any attention they could get.

    With Central Florida seen as the key to the presidential race, voter turnout could break Hillsborough County records, Supervisor of Elections Pam Iorio said. She predicts a 75 percent turnout, meaning about 375,000 could vote.

    "When voters know they could determine who the next president is going to be, they get out and vote," Iorio said.

    But when they arrive, many voters won't recognize all the candidates or issues on the ballot. Iorio's friends don't even know she's up for re-election.

    "Most people see me at candidate forums and say, "What are you doing here?' " Iorio said.

    Besides picking a president, a U.S. senator and statewide officials, voters will choose candidates for the Legislature, the County Commission and the courthouse. Tampa voters will have the chance to repeal term limits for the mayor and the City Council. Here are the key Hillsborough races:

    Castor will face state Rep. Victor Crist, R-Tampa Palms, in a hot contest for Senate District 13. The two have been trading charges on TV for weeks. Crist this week mailed out a piece with a picture of Betty Castor and a letter praising Crist's work.

    The ad makes it seem like Castor's mother supports Crist. "Betty Castor supports her daughter 100 percent," Kathy Castor said Monday.

    There are three races for the County Commission. Republicans could take over the seven-member board if they win one of two close ones. Republican Joe Chillura, architect of the community investment tax, has taken on Democrat Jan Platt with a blistering TV ad that accuses her of supporting tax increases. Platt called the ad misleading; she has run a quiet campaign based on her reputation as an advocate of good government.

    Commissioner Ben Wacksman's race could also be close. Republican Stacey Lyn Easterling has attacked Wacksman, a Democrat, for raising money from developers and big businesses. But Easterling didn't stick to her own campaign pledge to refuse money from lobbyists.

    Libertarian Joe Redner, the nude club owner, is challenging Democratic Commissioner Thomas Scott in a heavily Democratic central Tampa district.

    In the race to replace the late Harry Lee Coe as state attorney, Republican Mark Ober and Democrat Robert Shimberg will keep busy schedules until polls close tonight.

    Tampa Mayor Dick Greco's dominance in city politics could ride on the outcome of one charter amendment.

    Proponents of ending mayoral term limits raised $47,200 for the campaign. Centro Ybor Associates, Accelerated Title Co. of Tampa and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner III gave $1,000 each. A separate ballot question addresses term limits for City Council members.

    Voters countywide will be asked whether their judges should be appointed rather than elected. In Temple Terrace, Frank M. Chillura, David L. Curry and Jo Jeter are fighting for two seats on the City Council.

    Property Appraiser Rob Turner, a Republican, hopes to win a second term by beating Democrat Pat Hannon. In his first four years, Turner eliminated tax breaks for professional sports teams, airport businesses and private companies at the port.

    Republican Bart Siegel wants to oust Clerk of the Circuit Court Richard Ake, a Democrat who has held the job since 1985.

    Republican Alan Sandler faces long odds to unseat Democratic incumbent Julianne Holt for public defender. Joe Robinson, a Republican, also faces a long-shot bid for supervisor of elections against Democrat Pam Iorio, a former county commissioner.

    At the courthouse, Leland Anne Baldwin, a former prosecutor, faces lawyer Robert Foster Jr. for circuit judge. County Judge Ann Ober faces challenger Nick Nazaretian.

    There are several legislative races, including another hot Senate contest. State Rep. Rudy Bradley, who switched to the Republican Party, hopes to unseat Democratic House leader Les Miller in a bid in District 21. A Bradley victory would be a major boost to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

    Races for the state House include Republican Rob Wallace against Democrat Monte Belote in District 47 in Carrollwood; Republican Gus Bilirakis against Chris Gregg, who has no party affiliation, in District 48 in northwest Hillsborough; Democrat Bob Henriquez against Republican Eddy Calcines in District 58 in west Tampa; Republican Johnnie Byrd Jr. against Democrat John Wayne Clark in District 62 in Brandon; Sara Romeo, a Democrat, against Republican Ed Homan in north Tampa's District 60; and Republican Ken Littlefield against Democrat Larry McLaughlin in a rematch in District 61, which includes New Tampa.

    In District 56, which stretches across the county, Republican Sandra Murman will face Democrat Henry Gill Jr. He jumped into the race last month when the Democrats' candidate suddenly dropped out.

    Results will be available on Hillsborough television, cable channel 22; the Times' Web site at http://www.sptimes.com; and the Hillsborough supervisor of elections' Web site, http://www.votehillsborough.org.

    - Times staff writers Graham Brink and Christopher Goffard contributed to this report.

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