St. Petersburg Times Online: Election 2000
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Recount blurs result in Crystal River race

By ALEX LEARY

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 9, 2000


CRYSTAL RIVER -- Moments after learning he had won by five votes, Ron Kitchen was sworn in as mayor of Crystal River. After two previous attempts, it was a satisfying win for the 44-year-old developer.

It was a short celebration, though, as county election officials began a recount Wednesday, raising the possibility that Kitchen could be out of a job nearly as fast as he got in.

Under state law, a recount is in order because the split, 742-737, was so close. The results are expected to be released today.

"I'm used to not spending money until the check comes in the mail," said Kitchen, sounding nonetheless confident he would prevail over Sidney Kennedy.

As he walked out of City Hall on Tuesday night, Kennedy, 60, said he would not request a recount. Yet the following morning he began to reconsider.

"I was just thinking it was awful close," he said.

While they waited, both men reflected on what they could have done to ensure a decisive victory. "Maybe a few more door knockings could have gotten a few more votes," said Kennedy.

Most voters interviewed at the polls said they found both candidates adequate. They were credited for caring deeply about the city and for wanting to put an end to divisiveness among City Council members.

Facing a candidate who grew up in town and was backed by a vocal, influential political bloc, Kitchen kicked off his campaign in February, a half-year earlier than Kennedy.

"There is a powerful machine out there, and you never take that for granted," said Kitchen, who moved to Crystal River in 1987 and runs a golf course development company. "That's why I knew to win I had to run hard."

In addition to door-to-door politicking, Kitchen began collecting contributions from friends and business associates.

He raised more than $4,600. Kennedy, by contrast, raised about $1,200. Kitchen was able to buy dozens of campaign signs and send two direct mailings to many of the city's 2,400 voters. His opponent stuck to walking the streets.

"I was getting good response with door to door, so I just increased that endeavor in lieu of mailings," Kennedy said. "I don't know if you can buy your way in."

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