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Bush attorneys keep suit alive

Lawyers are waiting to see whether Vice President Al Gore's challenge in Florida addresses the issue of overseas ballots.

By ALISA ULFERTS

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 28, 2000


Attorneys for George W. Bush don't plan on dropping their lawsuit against Pasco County election officials, at least not yet.

Local Bush attorney Dennis Alfonso said Monday that Bush's legal team wants to keep the case it filed against Pasco's canvassing board alive until it reviews Vice President Al Gore's challenge of Florida's election results. That differed from Alfonso's comments the day before, when he said the lawsuit likely would be dropped by Monday afternoon following the canvassing board's decision Sunday to add 19 oversees ballots to Pasco's tally.

"We're going to keep the window open," Alfonso said Monday.

"We're just going to wait until we see (Gore's) challenge." If that challenge touches on the overseas ballot issue, Alfonso said the Bush team would prefer to have a case already pending in court. Gore on Monday challenged election results in three counties: Miami-Dade, Nassau and Palm Beach.

Lawyers for Bush sued Pasco's canvassing board and its three members, Elections Supervisor Kurt Browing, County Judge Robert Cole and County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand, on Saturday afternoon. In that suit, Bush sought to force Browning to count additional overseas ballots the canvassing board previously had rejected. None of the board members has been served with a copy of the suit, said board attorney Dan Dwyer.

It was the second time in a week that Bush lawyers sued Browning. The first suit was filed Wednesday and dropped several days later.

"I haven't been sued in 20 years, and then I was sued twice in one week," Browning said.

Browning's decision to have an attorney present at a hearing on the first lawsuit in Tallahassee earned him a phone call at home Friday night from state House Majority Leader Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. Browning said he wasn't trying to defend his board's decision to exclude certain overseas ballots; he merely wanted an attorney present to get direction from the court.

"He (Fasano) was pretty impassioned and I tried to explain to him the rationale for what we did," Browning said.

"I was pretty impassioned back, and I don't usually get worked up about things. I think it was heated. I don't think it was personal."

Fasano on Monday said he just wanted to make sure those serving overseas in the military weren't disenfranchised on a technicality.

"I had great concern that our military absentee ballots were not being counted," Fasano said. He added that he was pleased with Browning's decision to call Sunday's emergency canvassing board hearing to review those overseas ballots.

"Kurt Browning, in my opinion, did the right thing," Fasano said.

- This story contains information from The Associated Press. Alisa Ulferts covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is ulferts@sptimes.com.

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