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Farkas soundly beats Fischer

The two perennial foes waged a ferocious and expensive campaign.

By ALICIA CALDWELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- In the end, it was a rout.

Republican Frank Farkas kept his District 52 seat in the state House, defeating Democrat Margo Fischer by a hefty margin.

Farkas, 44, a chiropractor, said it was a race run on issues and that voters appeared to prefer his stances. Fischer disagreed, attributing her loss to what she called an extremely negative campaign by Farkas.

"It was a comparison of records," Farkas said. "Did it get ugly? I said it was going to be a campaign on issues, and it was."

Fischer's take differed.

"People say they don't like the negative, but unfortunately, negative appears to work," Fischer said. "He called me a liar. He tried to discredit me. It was sensationalized. I think it created a mystique that I was a deceitful person."

Late Tuesday, Farkas stood stoicly amid jubilant supporters at Harvey's 4th Street Grill. Though wave after wave of returns had him hovering at 55 to 60 percent of the vote in the northeast St. Petersburg district, Farkas wanted to make sure the final votes were in before claiming victory.

After all, the two previous matchups between himself and Fischer, 54, a retired investment banker and financial adviser, had been close races.

Neither had an advantage by virtue of the political composition of the district, which includes parts of north St. Petersburg and Kenneth City. It's about evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

Early indications were that it would be a tight race. During the last several months, the candidates campaigned ferociously, blanketing the district with critical mail pieces.

It's no wonder they fought so hard, given their history: In 1998, Farkas won by 1,620 votes. Two years prior, Fischer took the race by 1,601 votes.

Not only have their races been hard-fought battles, they've been expensive compared with other state House races.

By local standards, Farkas ran what some called an exceptionally negative campaign. He mailed several campaign pieces that were very critical of Fischer and attempted to take advantage of any ill will voters might have toward her husband, David Fischer, St. Petersburg's mayor.

With Farkas' approval, the state Republican Party mailed what was arguably the most negative campaign mailer sent out in local races. The piece accused Fischer of being soft on crime and unsupportive of law enforcement and firefighters. It showed a grim-looking man holding a tire iron coming in an open window, and said: "If Margo Fischer gets back into the House ... who will fight to protect yours?"

Fischer countered by criticizing Farkas for the money he received from political action committees and health care industry groups.

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