By ALICIA CALDWELL
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000
As returns rolled in Tuesday night, it looked as though Democrat Les Miller would best Republican Rudy Bradley for the state Senate 21 seat.
The seat represents neighborhoods in Tampa, south Pinellas and Manatee counties.
"We've seen some early returns that look real good," Miller said Tuesday night. "I feel real good about it."
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.
For Miller, it was a race of affirmation. For Bradley, it was repudiation.
Miller had served in the state House since 1992, and the senate district he appeared on track to win Tuesday night includes areas of Tampa that he had represented in the House.
Though precinct-by-precinct totals were late trickling in Tuesday, the St. Petersburg vote appeared to trend toward Miller, the Tampa candidate, and not Bradley, who lives in St. Petersburg.
Bradley, a longtime Democrat, annoyed constituents and Democratic leaders last year when he switched to the Republican party.
Though he frequently touted the projects he brought to the district and African-American causes across the state, the defection appeared to cost him.
Democrats said the projects, including a minority AIDS prevention project in St. Petersburg and $1.4-million to support a policy planning institute at Florida A&M University, were merely housewarming gifts from Republicans. The contention was that Republicans were 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 would appear to support the backlash theory.
Pinellas Democrats heavily supported St. Petersburg native Doug Jamerson, a former legislator, in the September primary. However, Miller won the contest by virtue of his strong support in Tampa.
The district encompasses racially mixed and predominantly black neighborhoods in a heavily Democratic district -- 62 percent -- and it had been represented by Jim Hargrett Jr., a Tampa Democrat forced out of office by term limits.
Though the race was shaped in part by term limits, Bradley, who is leaving a state House seat representing parts of south Pinellas, could have run for another House term.