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Ake appears on his way to keep tenure unbroken

By SUE CARLTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


TAMPA -- Historically, the job of Hillsborough Clerk of the Circuit Court hasn't exactly sparked political fireworks. In fact, incumbent Richard Ake faced no opponent at all since 1986 -- until this year, when certified public accountant Bart Siegel said he hoped to "stir things up" and announced he was running.

But Tuesday, voters were ready to keep Ake around for another four-year term. The 60-year-old Democrat took an early lead over his 42-year-old Republican opponent. And the numbers piled up in Ake's favor as the night wore on.

"It's going exactly like we'd hoped," he said. "Every time they print numbers, the percentage increases."

Ake said he loves the job, but a victory would go to his staff of 800.

"It's a vote of confidence of the staff," he said.

Siegel, who watched the results from his living room La-Z-Boy recliner sounded hopeful early on but could not be reached for comment later.

The clerk of the circuit court maintains records of the County Commission and circuit and county courts.

The clerk acts as the county's chief financial officer, responsible for tracking and investing more than $1-billion in annual collections.

Ake, who joined the clerk's office in 1961, landed in the top spot in 1985 by an appointment from then-Gov. Bob Graham.

In this campaign, Ake cited advances in computerizing the office's voluminous records.

Siegel, who resigned from his job as an internal auditor in the Pinellas clerk's office to run, touted his work documenting poor financial tracking of millions of dollars at the Pinellas convention and visitor's bureau.

He had been faulted for making too many personal calls and coming in late but chalked that up to a conflict with a supervisor.

In one notable homemade TV commercial, Siegel featured a small dog who appeared to be talking and urging voters to "Vote Smart, Vote for Bart."

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