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Miller overpowers former Democrat


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000

The state Senate 21 race was an easy and early call.

As returns rolled in Tuesday night, it was clear Democrat Les Miller would best Republican Rudy Bradley for the seat, which represents neighborhoods in south Pinellas, Tampa and Manatee County.

For Miller, it was a race of affirmation. For Bradley, it was repudiation.

Miller said he was heartened, but not surprised by the overwhelming support.

"I know the people. . . . I know what they want and I think that I'm the best person for the job," Miller said.

Bradley, who switched political parties last year, said he did not think the drumming he took was connected to his becoming a Republican.

"I don't think this is so much about party," said Bradley, adding he may run for public office again. "I attribute that to the fact that the people are counting on Mr. Miller to deliver for them."

Miller, 49, is the outgoing House minority leader and manager for minority business enterprise development for Tampa General Hospital. Bradley, 54, had served in the state House and is a recruiter for the Pinellas Technical Education Center.

Miller had served in the state House since 1992, and the Senate district he will represent includes areas of Tampa that he had represented in the House.

Though precinct-by-precinct totals were not immediately available, the St. Petersburg vote heavily favored Miller, the Tampa candidate, and not Bradley, who lives in St. Petersburg.

Bradley, a longtime Democrat, angered party faithful last year when he switched parties. Although he frequently touted the projects he brought to the district as a Republican, the defection appeared to cost him.

Democrats said the projects, including a minority AIDS prevention project in St. Petersburg, were housewarming gifts from Republicans pleased to lay claim to only the second black Republican state legislator since Reconstruction.

At a Tiger Bay candidate forum in July, audience members ripped Bradley for the party change. The voting trend in the primary also would appear to support the backlash theory.

Pinellas Democrats heavily supported St. Petersburg native Doug Jamerson, a former legislator, in the September primary. Jamerson got 86 percent of the Democratic vote. However, Miller won the contest by virtue of his strong support in Tampa.

The district, encompassing racially mixed and predominantly black neighborhoods, is heavily Democratic.

Independent candidate Kim Coljohn garnered only a small slice of the vote.

- Times staff writer Amy Abbott contributed to this report

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