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By ALISA ULFERTS
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
Democrat Peter Altman took the County Commission District 5 seat Tuesday - but barely. He and Republican opponent Jack Armstrong were separated by less than 1 percentage point for much of the evening's late vote tallying, with Altman holding the final edge.
An automatic recount is possible if Pasco County elections officials determine the final difference in votes cast is less than one-half of 1 percent. That information wasn't available at press time.
Armstrong had started the evening with a healthy lead, but Altman's vote tallies creeped up consistently throughout the evening.
"I'm just grateful,'' Altman said from his home late Tuesday.
"I'm going to be the hardest working county commissioner they've seen in a long time,'' Altman said.
Armstrong had gathered with friends at a restaurant in Land O'Lakes.
"It was a good race. Pete had a lot of name recognition, and I wish him all the best,'' Armstrong said.
"We did the best with what we've got for a first run,'' he added.
Altman is an accountant and spent 12 years on the New Port Richey City Council, eight of them as mayor.
During Altman's time on the New Port Richey council, he was widely credited with redeveloping that city's downtown and with finding state money to set aside the 80-acre James E. Grey Preserve.
Altman and Armstrong had waged a gentleman's campaign for much of the election season, at least until Altman said Armstrong began calling attention to his opponent's failure to pay some property taxes on time. Altman paid penalties for those delinquencies, which he blamed on a temporary cash flow problem.
Armstrong also stumbled in the last week before the election when he incorrectly accused Altman of leaving New Port Richey $2-million in debt when he left it as mayor earlier this year. Armstrong apparently had misunderstood several newspaper articles about the city's capital improvement plan.
- Staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report.