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Politics, Politicians, and Current Events Examined

PINELLAS COUNTY 2010: Those Who Would Be Our Legislators

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By Le Corbeaunoir

[UPDATED August 21, 2010]

The 2010 campaign season is already well underway and next fall’s state legislative elections in Florida’s Pinellas County are a microcosm of the political trends emerging nationally. One trend is that the more experienced and prepared candidates are tending to avoid head-on contests with incumbents and are instead trying to pick up seats of those who are barred by term limits from seeking re-election.  Overall, the 2010 elections may result in rightward adjustments, but won’t effect anything approaching a revolution in government.  Still, there are no certainties as to outcome at this point. There remains time for new candidates, issues and events to change the course of the elections, but that time is slipping away.

Critical dates are as follows: At noon on May 17, 2010, petitions for statewide, multi-county, county and district candidates seeking to qualify by the petition method are due to the supervisors of elections. Otherwise, the filing deadline is June 18 for all legislative candidates. The state primary is August 24, with early voting from August 9 through 22. The general election is November 2, with early voting from October 18 through 31.

Senate District 16

Senate District 16 is an open election, with no incumbent. There are presently one Democrat and one Republican running for the seat.

Nina Hayden (Photo by Douglas R. Clifford, St. Petersburg Times 2008)

Nina Lynn Hayden (D), age 34, single with no children, presently a member of the Pinellas County School Board and a part-time Public Defender Assistant, filed on July 1, 2009. She made the ballot by paying the qualifying fee. She was admitted to the Florida Bar on on April 4, 2004.  Hayden announced her decision to run for Senate just seven months after her election to the school board. She has set up a campaign website that mimics the Barack Obama campaign style. Her initial campaign announcement was simply that “In a time of financial crisis, it is crucial to create sound solutions to fix the problems of the State of Florida for the long term. In less than two years when the money given by the Federal Government will no longer be able to sustain the budget, it is imperative we have new leadership that will look forward with new ideas and new solutions to bring change to Tallahassee.”

Hayden has taken positions on only three issues: education, health care, and environment, but offers only platitudes and no solutions to the problems she claims exist, and stands for bigger, more expensive and more intrusive state government. In her campaign financial activity reports covering the period July 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010, she reported $11,991.05 in 112 contributions, broken down into $8,490.20 in monetary contributions, no loans, and $3,500.85 in in-kind contributions. She listed her expenditures as $7,728.37. These expenditures included $3,000 to Bernie Campbell of Tampa, a veteran Democratic political consultant whose biography at the Fort Report blog states that, among other things he has served as the Communications Director for the Democratic Governor’s Association, as a speech writer for New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and as a campaign strategist for the Florida House Democratic Caucus. Campbell is a leftist who has publicly called for lifting the embargo of Cuba.

Hayden has been harshly criticized as an overly-ambitious intellectual lightweight and leftist ideologue who is devoid of new ideas, and whose primary role appears to be that of ensuring that the Republicans do not get a free ride in this race:  She is therefore not likely to be the beneficiary of any significant infusion of Democratic Party money unless her campaign by some miracle catches fire. Her campaign is failing miserable, and she raised only $300 in the first quarter of 2010, the last period for which reports have been filed.

Jack Latvala

Jack Latvala (R), who formerly served several years in the Florida Senate until he was term-limited out, is seeking to return as the Senator from District 16. He filed on April 22, 2009. He made the ballot by collecting petition signatures. Latvala is a strong personality who has a devoted following. As summarized by William March, writing in TBO.com,

Latvala was elected to the Senate in 1994 and served as majority leader from 1998 to 2000. He developed a high profile on issues including tort reform, redistricting and the environment, and earned a reputation for occasionally acting independently of party and business interests. He also developed a reputation for blunt speech–critics called it abrasiveness. He left office after reaching his term limit, and became a political consultant.

Latvala’s April 22, 2009 campaign announcement, in which he stated that if elected he “will dedicate [him]self to finding lasting solutions for our homeowners insurance situation, strengthening our schools, and preserving the quality of life we have come to expect in our state” makes it plain that he is running on his past record of  accomplishments. He has a campaign website, a Facebook profile and a Facebook group for his campaign. He is also on Twitter.  The “issues” sction of his campaign website touts past accomplishments, and cites his support of lower taxes, requiring welfare recipients to work for it, tort reform, what he calls post-9/11 “economic stimulus efforts” that comprised greater government spending to “create jobs” by accelerating highway and school construction projects, tough anti-crime measures, regulation of payday check cashing, helping mobile home tenants fight “unjust” rent increases, environmental protection laws, and a $1.1 billion increase in public education funding, among other things.  There is no indication in any of his campaign materials that he favors a reduction in the size of state government – or that he has any opinions either way about any particular issue, although he has stated that he is opposed to offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  The only indication in his campaign website as to what he would actually do if elected is the following rather ambiguous statement appearing in the biography section:

If given the honor to serve again, he would be an unrelenting advocate for Senate District 16. He would utilize his years of experience and institutional knowledge to help create responsible public policy, protecting both the long-term interests of our community while working to solve problems in the short term.

In his campaign finance reports covering the period April 22, 2009 to March 31, 2010, he reported 1,238 contributions with $504,259.00 in monetary contributions, $1,000.00 in loans, $12, 683.33 in in-kind contributions, and expenditures of $85,725.82, including $2,560.00 to EMRI Corporation, $10,000.00 to Anne B. Voss, $503.00 to Jack Latvala, Inc., $1,747.77 to Jack Latvala, $6,000.00 to Nicholas M. Hansen, and $3,983.31 to Rachelle Warmouth. Latvala is a non-ideological “pragmatist,” not a conservative, who is experienced, well-connected, and politically savvy. He presently has an overwhelming intellectual and materiel resource advantage over Hayden and is not expected to have much difficulty defeating his Democratic Party opponent.

Senate District 18

There is only one person running for this seat, the incumbent, and she’s an established left-wing statist.

Arthenia Joyner

Arthenia L. Joyner (D), is the incumbent. She filed on May 15, 2007 and is running unopposed. She got on the ballot by paying the qualifying fee. She is a long-time civil rights activist, a personal friend of Hillary Clinton, and a supporter of Barack Obama. She is also a long-time supporter of ACORN, and in 2005 while still in the Florida House of Representatives received the Tampa Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, (ACORN), Representative of the Year Award, 2005. Her 2009 Florida Chamber of Commerce Rating is 48%, her 2009 Associated Industries of Florida Rating is 58%, and her 2009 Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida Rating is 17%.  Her 2008 Florida Conservation Alliance Rating was 74.4%.  In her campaign finance reports covering the period April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2010, she reported 108 contributions with $44,450.00 in monetary contributions, $100.00 in loans, $1,138.34 in in-kind contributions, and expenditures of $20,308.50. In the 2006 senate primary election, Joyner won her party’s nomination with 19,046 votes to 5,055 votes for challenger Gerald White. In the general election, Joyner won with 63,023 votes to 24 votes for write-in candidate Eric T. Suntich. She is well-connected to the liberal-leftist establishment locally and nationally, and is probably unassailable should an opponent emerge to challenge her in 2010.

House District 45

There presently are four Republicans and no Democrat candidates for this open seat.

Fabian Calvo

Fabian Calvo (R), 31, filed on February 20, 2009, and got on the ballot by collecting petition signatures. He has his own radio talk show and has spoken at Tea Party protests in the Tampa Bay area, giving him more exposure than the average political newcomer. He is the most controversial candidate in the race and has already attracted the attention of the liberals and the state-run media. He is a member of the Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty Meetup Group, which puts him outside the mainstream of conservative and Republican politics. He has been endorsed by constitutionalist Rebecca O’Ddell-Townsend, who claims to be the mother of a love-child fathered by Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Along the same lines, he is runing as a “conservative” but is being supported by members of the Constitution Party, who held a fundraiser for him in August 2009.

Calvo claims a net worth of $1,894,600.00 in his June 11, 2010 candidate financial disclosure form, a figure that is much less than the $3.5 million net worth he claimed in a 2007 video, but one that is still suspect in the minds of some people. He has been accused of twisting the truth about himself, his business La Familia, and his political ideology. Although he is running in 2010 as an arch conservative, Calvo in 2005, 2006, and 2007 gave $1,000.00 each year to join the President’s Council of the National Council of La Raza, a hard-left radical separatist group. Calvo has been publicly accused of being a slumlord. Some came to believe he is a “birther,” after he cancelled billboard contracts with Lamar Outdoor after Lamar rejected WorldNetDaily’s campaign monies for billboard space to display “Where’s The Birth Certificate?” advertisements referring to WND’s demand that President Barack Obama produce his birth certificate to prove that he was born in the United States and is eligible under the U.S. Constitution to sit as President of the United States.

He has set up a campaign website and a Facebook page, neither of which offer any specifics beyond his assertions that he is a “common-sense conservative . . . who believes state government should be run like a business” and that he supports “free markets, traditional values, zero-based budgeting, strengthening ethics laws for elected officials, and pushing back on [sic] special interests.”

In his campaign financial activity reports covering the period January 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010, he reported $26,056.00 in 259 monetary contributions, no loans, no in-kind contributions, and expenditures $26,021.22. Expenditures included $11,304.00 to campaign consultants Brown & McAlarney Communications, LLC of Tallahassee, $2,350.00 to campaign aide Robert Lawrence, and $650.00 to the Republican Party of Pasco County.

Calvo is, at this point, probably the weakest and most vulnerable of the three candidates vying for the District 45 seat.

Richard Corcoran

Richard Corcoran (R) filed on April 16, 2009 and made his ballot position by collecting sufficient petition signatures. He is an attorney who was admitted to the Florida Bar on September 21, 1999.  He briefly served as a chief of staff for Marco Rubio. He has previously run unsuccessfully for the State House of Representatives and ran an abortive campaign for the State Senate. In his campaign financial activity reports covering the period April 16 2009 to March 31, 2010, he reported 633 contributions comprising $165,742.95 in monetary contributions, no loans, and $3,502.43 in in-kind contributions. His disclosed campaign expenditures total $59,519.79, including $14,6203.05 to “Last Lion” in Hernando, with “other” expenditures totaling $228.69 and paid to Richard Cocoran. He has set up a campaign website which has no particulars but does feature several significant endorsements from local politicians, he is on Twitter, and he is running television commercials.

If Corcoran has a distinct political philosophy it is not apparent, or at least unstated in his publicly available campaign literature, and at this point he presents as a non-ideological moderate running on his status as a lifelong Republican and on his roots in the local community. He is, at this point, the best-resourced candidate for this seat, but it is anticipated that Kathryn Starkey will become more competitive with him over the ensuing months.

Grady Peeler (WRI) filed on June 10, 2010 as a write-in candidate, qualifying on June 14, 2010. He is a securities trader and a member of the Pasco County Republican Executive Committee. He entered the race not for the purpose of trying to win, but with the intent to make the race a closed primary in which only Republican voters will get to cast a ballot. Peeler has not raised any money or mounted a campaign in any way. He is, in fact, a supporter of fellow candidate Fabian Calvo.

Kathryn Elizabeth Starkey

Kathryn Elizabeth Starkey (R) filed on January 27, 2009. She qualified by collecting write-in signatures. In her campaign financial activity reports covering the period January 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010, she reported $97,336.00 in monetary contributions, loans of $4,000.00, and $4,339.35 in in-kind contributions from a total of 528 contributions, with expenditures of $32,036.37 and “other”  expenditures of $383.24. She has set up a campaign website with the slogan of “Roots, Results, Resolve!”  She also has set up a Facebook page. She is a former member of the Pasco County School Board, and is vice president and member of the board of directors of Citizens for a Scenic Florida. She also owns an impressive house. Not much is know about her political philosophy, if she has a defined one, and her family has been closely associated with Democratic Party politics. The best estimate at this point is that she is moderate-to-liberal in her political leanings. There is no indication that she has taken a position on the size of state government or on any other political issue.

House District 48

There are presently one Democrat and three Republicans running for the District 48 seat.

Marg Baker

Marg Baker (R) filed on December 31, 2009 and made the ballot by collecting petition signatures.  She is a member of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee (PCREC) and also is known as Margie A. Baker. She has a campaign website and a Facebook profile. In her campaign finance activity reports covering the period December 31, 2009 to March 31, 2010 she reported $2,18.39 in monetary contributions, no loans, and no in-kind donations from a total of 150 contributions and expenditures of $312.36.  Virtually nothing is known about her.  Baker gave the following rather remarkable stump speech to the PCREC on February 8, 2010 (hat tip to PCREC):

On August 15, 2010, Baker gave this equally remarkable speech before the attendees at the PCREC Republican Victory 2010 Picnic(hat tip to PCREC):

Thomas McKone

Thomas C. McKone, III (D) filed on January 7, 2009 and made the ballot by collecting petition signatures. He is President of Healthcare Recruiters International of Central Florida.  McKone is a member of the East Lake Special Fire Control District Commission since 2004, and currently serves as its Vice Chairman. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Tarpons Springs Democratic Club.  He has set up a campaign website and a Facebook profile. He has characterized the man he is trying to unseat, Rep. Peter Nehr, as a “business as usual” politician who is only visible at election time and as a failed leader.  He blames Nehr’s “failed leadership” for an increase in unemployment costs for business due to “high rates of joblessness and the state’s failure to provide further relief by obtaining all-available federal economic recovery funds.”  His strategy appears to be running against “the failures of the Legislature,” but he otherwise is not presenting either a personal political philosophy or a distinctly positive political message. In his campaign financial activity reports covering the period January 19, 2009 to March 31, 2010 he reported 157 contributions comprising $16,059.01 in monetary contributions, loans of $300, no in-kind contributions, and expenditures of $10,145.83.

Steven Mueller (R) filed on June 11, 2010 and qualified for the ballot by paying the qualifying fee. He has reported no campaign finance activity to date. He is approximately 41 years old and lives a house apart from fellow candidate Marge Baker in Palm Harbor, but little else is known about him, his campaign, or why he is running. He did, however, give the following speech at the PCREC Republican Victory 2010 Picnic on August 15, 2010:

Peter Nehr

Peter F. Nehr (R), born June 29, 1952 in Kapfenberg, Austria, is the incumbent. He filed on January 26, 2009 and qualified for the ballot by paying the qualifying fee. From 2000 to 2006 he was a commissioner for the City of Tarpon Springs.  He has occupied his present legislative seat continuously since 2006.   He has set up a campaign website in which he identifies the issues of the campaign to be homeowner’s insurance, health care, property taxes, and the state budget. He is apparently running on his record and may have increased his vulnerability by filing for personal bankruptcy (his second) in March 2009. He has a page on Wikipedia, and a Facebook profile. In the 2008 primary Nehr had no opposition and in the general election Nehr won with 36,034 votes to 34,650 votes for Democratic Party candidate Carl “Z” Zimmerman. His 2009 Florida Chamber of Commerce Rating is 88%, his 2009 Associated Industries of Florida Rating is 80%, and his 2009 Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida Rating is 100%.  His 2008 Florida Conservation Alliance Rating was 39%.  In his campaign financial activity reports covering the period January 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010, he reported 295 contributions comprising $98,158.56 in monetary contributions, no loans, in-kind contributions totaling $1,295.52, and expenditures of $16,887.82, including a $1,200.00 expenditure for EMRI Corporation and $2,310.00 to Analyn Megison.

House District 50

There are presently one Republican and one Democrat running for this seat.

Ed Hooper

Ed Hooper (R) is the incumbent. He filed on February 2, 2009. Hooper was born August 5, 1947 in North Carolina and was educated in public schools there. He attended St. Petersburg Junior College, where he studied emergency medicine and fire science. He worked as a firefighter for four years in Statesville, N.C., and then for 24 years in Clearwater. He served on the Clearwater City Commission from 1996 to 2000, and Vice Mayor of Clearwater City 1999-2000. In 2000 he ran for state House District 50 and was defeated by Kim Berfield in the Republican primary. He is married and has two adult children. He is a partner with the Consus Group, Limited Liability Corporation. He was a firefighter from 1968-1996, Vice-Mayor of Clearwater City 1999-2000, and City Commissioner from 1996-2000. Hooper has represented the 50th District since 2007 and currently serves in the Legislature as Deputy Whip. Hooper was unopposed in both the 2008 primary and general elections. His 2009 Florida Chamber of Commerce Rating is 94%, his 2009 Associated Industries of Florida Rating is 87%, and his 2009 Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida Rating is 100%.  His 2008 Florida Conservation Alliance Rating was 53.9%.  Hooper is generally considered to be a moderate, has voted to require pregnant women to undergo an ultrasound before obtaining a first trimester abortion tline, and in July 2009 he was named as an Honorary Chairman of the Charlie Crist for Senate Campaign in Pinellas County. In his campaign financial activity reports covering the period January 1 to December 31, 2009 he reported 132 contributions comprising $37,925.00 in monetary contributions, no loans, $400.00 in in-kind contributions, with expenditures of $2,100.86. Additional information about Hooper can be found here, here, and here.

Shelly J. Leonard (D) is the challenger. He/she filed on May 6, 2010 and qualified for the ballot by collecting petition signatures. Shelly does not have an identifiable campaign literature, website or social networking page, has not filed any campaign finance reports, and at this point cannot be considered to be a serious challenge to the incumbent.

House District 51

There are presently one Democrat, one TEA Party candidate, and one Republican running for the open District 51 seat.

Larry Ahern

Larry Ahern (R) filed on July 8, 2009 and made the ballot position by collecting petition signatures. He is an Air Force veteran and a businessman who owns Larry Ahern Pool Remodeling. He has served on the St. Petersburg’s Nuisance Abatement Board and is married to former St. Petersburg Times reporter Maureen Byrne Ahern. He says that he is running because he is concerned about government spending.  In his campaign financial activity reports covering the period July 8, 2009 through March 31, 2010 he reported 128 contributions comprising monetary contributions totaling $15,581.12, loans of $5,000, in-kind donations valued at $1,509.81, and expenditures of $8,580.52. Listed among his campaign expenditures were $1,200.00 to ePolitical Power in Clearwater, $1,400.00 to Rachelle Warmouth, and $500.00 to Leslie Waters. He has a Facebook profile and a nice-looking campaign website. On his website, Ahern asserts that he “believes God gave us the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As a state legislator, [I] will fight for those rights that empower the individual and limit the government by upholding the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Florida.” He also claims that, if elected, he will practice fiscal responsibility and not allow special interests to influence his actions as a public servant. He does not, however, call for a reduction in the size of state government.  On August 8, 2010, Ahern gave the following stump speech to the PCREC (hat tip to PCREC):

Janet Long (Photo by Mark Foley)

Janet C. Long (D), 65, is the incumbent. She filed on February 2, 2009. She has a campaign website and a Facebook profile. In her campaign finance activity reports covering the period January 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010 she listed 276 contributions totaling $85,660.00 in monetary contributions, $26.64 in in-kind contributions, and no loans, while listing expenditures of $19,944.26. Among the listed expenditures is an entry dated April 30, 2009 in the amount of $1,432.98 for the Fountainebleau Resort, Miami, Florida. Long’s 2009 Florida Chamber of Commerce Rating is 68%, her 2009 Associated Industries of Florida Rating is 70%, and her 2009 Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida Rating is 33%.  Her 2008 Florida Conservation Alliance Rating was 64.9%.  She was unopposed in the 2008 primary and in the final elections Long won with 37,119 votes to 26,661 votes for latecomer Republican Party candidate Christopher M. Peters. Additional information about Long can be found here and here. In the 2008 elections, Long received the support of the SEIU, the Pinellas County Teachers Union, and other labor organizations. She is a liberal Democrat in a predominantly conservative Republican district and is vulnerable in the November elections.

Victoria A. Torres (TEA Party) filed on June 17, 2010 and qualified for the ballot by paying the qualifying fee. She has no campaign website, literature or advertisement, and she has reported no campaign finance activity. Torres, who lives in Orlando, jumped into the race after the other Republican running, conservative Dawn Thompson, quit the race and endorsed Ahern. The entry of Torres, who is exploiting the provision in the law that a candidate does not have to live in the district he or she hopes to represent until election day, has aroused the suspicions of many Republicans that she and other so-called TEA Party candidates who have late-entered races across the state are in reality agents of the Democratic Party who are being used to split the conservative vote and siphon voters away from Republican candidates. In fact, Torres incorporated Public Opinion Strategies, Inc. in 2008 and in the first quarter of 2010 was paid $11,000 as a “pollster” for Democrat Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Fla.). Interestingly, the corporation formed by Torres does not have a webpage and has no relationship to Public Opinion Strategies, based in Virginia, which is one of the largest and well-known Republican opinion polling organizations in the country. It appears at this point that Torres represents a sham political party designed to split the conservative vote as part of a plan designed to increase the chances of Democratic candidates and lessen the chances of Republican victory. More about the scheme can be found in a video report by Tony Pipitone of WKMG Local 6 in Orlando. Revelations about this plan have already generated controversy in Orlando, but has generated little interest in the local media in Pinellas County. This attempt to subvert the electoral process in state legislative races is the political scandal of the decade and is going to get a lot of attention on this blog in the near future.

House District 52

One Democrat, the incumbent, and one Republican, the challenger, are running for this seat.

Jeff Brandes

Jeff Brandes (R) is the challenger. He filed on May 26, 2010 and qualified for the ballot by paying the qualifying fee.  He has a campaign website and a Facebook page, he is on Twitter, and he has produced a couple of short television commercials. It does not appear, however, that he has put any of his videos on YouTube for wider dissemination, but that may change. Brandes is a businessman who was born and raised in St. Petersburg. According to his campaign biography, after graduating from college Brandes worked on Grand Cayman Island until the tourism industry subsided in the wake of September 11, 2001 and later served 14 months in Iraq as an officer in the Army Reserve. his theme is that Tallahassee is “broken” and that he put it “on our clock.”  He has reported no campaign finance activity to date, but it is believed that he will be able to muster considerable resources for this campaign.

Bill Heller

Bill Heller (D) is the incumbent. He filed on February 4, 2009 and qualified for the ballot by paying the qualifying fee. In his campaign financial activity reports covering the period January 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010, he listed 142contributions totalling $49,390.00 in monetary contributions, no loans or in-kind contributions, and expenditures of $5,653.25, which included $1,598.75 to “Aristotle” and $3,798.25 to Complete Campaigns at the same address in San Diego, California. His 2009 Florida Chamber of Commerce Rating is 54%, his 2009 Associated Industries of Florida Rating is 64%, and his 2009 Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida Rating is 17%.  His 2008 Florida Conservation Alliance Rating was 62%.  In the 2008 primary Heller ran unopposed and in the final election he won with 36,661 votes to 24,466 votes for Republican Party candidate Ross Johnson.  More information about Heller can be found here.

House District 53

There are presently two Republicans and one Democrat running for this seat.

Thomas Cuba

Thomas R. Cuba (R) filed on July 13, 2009 and made the ballot position by filing campaign petitions. Dr. Cuba is the Chief Scientist for Delta-Seven, Inc., an environmental management and consulting firm. He ran unsucessfully for the St. Petersburg City Council in 1997. He is a member of the South Pinellas 9-12 Patriots Group and the Pinellas Patriots meetup group. He has set up a campaign blog, an “essay page” which links to seventy cerebral “essays” or candidate position papers on a wide variety of issues, and a campaign website. He says in An Open Letter to the Citizens of Florida House District 53 that he will take campaign contributions only from people who actually live in the District. In his campaign financial activity reports covering the period of July 13, 2009 through March 31, 2010 he reported 6 contributions comprising $80 in monetary contributions, $1,000.00 in loans, an in-kind donation $22.50 from his employer, expenditures of $964.97, and “other” disbursements of $1,376.05.

Rick Kriseman

Rick Kriseman (D) is the incumbent. He was born on August 2, 1962 in Detroit, Michigan.  Kriseman is a lawyer who was admitted to the Florida Bar on October 6, 1987.  He filed on December 18, 2008 and qualified for the ballot by paying the qualifying fee. He has a Facebook profile and has established a campaign website. In 2008 Kriseman ran unopposed in both the primary and final elections.  On the issues he is a platitudinist and cultural Marxist, dividing people by race, gender, sexual orientation and class, and promoting a larger role for government at the expense of individual liberty.  He has, for example, promoted a state ban on smoking on or around athletic fields, favors gay adoptions and, on March 22, 2007, was one of only four legislators to vote against the state’s Merit Award Program — because it did not provide for an across-the-board pay raise for all teachers.  Kriseman’s 2009 Florida Chamber of Commerce Rating is 27%, his 2009 Associated Industries of Florida rating is 52%, and his 2009 Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida Rating is 17%.  His 2008 Florida Conservation Alliance Rating was 75.2%.  In his campaign financial activity reports covering the period October 1, 2008 through March 31, 2010 he lists 178 contributions comprising $50,705.06 in monetary contributions, no loans, and in-kind contributions of $350.00, with expenditures of $12,337.67. The bulk of the campaign expenditures, $6,554.90, went to Kevin King of St. Petersburg, who works for Kriseman as a legislative assistant to the Florida House of Representatives.

House District 54

There are presently one Republican and one Democrat running for this seat.

Jim Frishe

James C. “Jim” Frishe (R) is the incumbent. He filed on February 2, 2009 and made the ballot by collecting petition signatures.  He was born in Potsdam, New York, on April 6, 1949.  Frishe has a campaign website and is on Facebook and Twitter.  He is generally regarded as a conservative with moderate leanings and is not an ideologue.  In his campaign financial activity reports covering the period January 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010 he listed 285 contributions comprising $66,954.00 in monetary contributions, no loans, and $1,968.95 in in-kind contributions, while listing expenditures of $13,418.78. Expenditures included $1,500.00 to his campaign teasurer Tom Kiernan and $5,000.00 to Rachelle Warmouth. His 2009 Florida Chamber of Commerce Rating is 100%, his 2009 Associated Industries of Florida Rating is 90%, and his 2009 Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida Rating is 100%.  His 2008 Florida Conservation Alliance Rating was 49%.  In the 2008 primary Frishe was unopposed and in the final elections he won with 38,091 votes to 29,158 votes for Democratic Party candidate George A. Gonzalez.  In July 2009 Frishe was named as an Honorary Chairman of the Charlie Crist for Senate Campaign in Pinellas County.  He is not expected to have any difficulty overcoming the opposition in his bid for re-election.

Mary Russell

Mary L. Russell (D) filed on July 1, 2009 and made the ballot by collecting petition signatures. She is a former schoolteacher and presently serves in the enlisted Navy Reserve.  Russell previously served a single term as a former Pinellas County School Board member, where she was a controversial figure. In 2003 she refused to allow her two children to take the FCAT exam, despite the fact that this was required by law and as a School Board member she took an oath to uphold the law. While on the board, Russell saw as her enemy fellow board member Nancy Bostock, and when it came time for both to seek re-election, Russell chose to run againt Bostock with the intent of removing her nemesis from the board.  The St. Petersburg Times, which had supported her candidacy in 2002, on August 18, 2006 wrote an endorsement of Bostock over Russell, in which the Times stated, among other things, that

With new School Board district lines drawn, Mary Russell easily could have run for re-election this year in her own seat. But she chose to take on a board colleague she considers a nemesis, Nancy Bostock. It is fitting that Russell chose conflict. That characterizes her approach throughout her first term, and she is responsible for much of the board’s dysfunction. We recommend Bostock.

This newspaper recommended Russell, 35, a former family literacy teacher, four years ago in part because she promised to shake things up. Instead, she has transformed board meetings into cranky monologues, always certain she has unearthed a new skeleton in the superintendent’s closet. Her rants have so alienated the board that, as veteran board member Linda Lerner puts it: “When she’s on my side on an issue, board members stop listening to me.”

Bostock, 37, has at times allowed partisan ideology to blind her to real-world classroom needs. Her opposition to the property tax increase for higher teacher pay, approved overwhelmingly by voters, was one example. But this race is less about philosophy than about competence. Bostock is studious, reasoned, respectful and professional. Russell is not. Bostock is able to place decisions in a broader educational context, and her more nuanced views on the FCAT and student discipline indicate her approach to the job has become more sophisticated over her two terms and less tied to rigid rhetoric. Russell has not demonstrated similar growth.

Florida NOW logo

Russell badly overestimated her own candidacy.  In that race, Bostock won with 52% (56,057 votes) to 25% (27,295 votes) for Russell and 22% (23,776 votes) for Chris Hardman. Russell has not run for another public office until now.  The entirety of her statement on the “issues,” appearing on her campaign website, is simply that “Mary is a candidate who cares about the environmental preservation, strong public schools and affordable health care.”  What is more instructive of her politics is that her candidacy is endorsed by the hard-left Florida National Organization for Women, which opposes any legal restrictions on abortion, supports same-sex marriage, favors race-based quotas and affirmative action, is promoting socialized medicine, and is endorsing candidates who will support Florida NOW’s legislative agenda.  In her campaign finance activity reports covering the period July 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010, she reported 38 contributions comprising monetary contributions of $1,715.00 of which $700.00 came from herself, loans in the amount of $200.00, and in-kind donations of $1,014.97. She reported no expenditures. Russell raised only $160.00 in monetary contributions in the last quarter for which reports are available, and the evidence suggests that this is a failed campaign.

House District 55

There are presently two Democrat candidates and one write-in candidate running for the District 55 seat.

Joseph L. Graser (WRI) qualified on June 18, 2010, just minutes before the noon deadline. He works at a Winn Dixie in Sarasota and has no campaign website, literature or any of the other trappings of a legitimate contender. His function in this race appears to be to protect incumbent Darryl Rouson from an open election.

Darryl Rouson

Darryl Ervin Rouson (D), born July 20, 1954 in New Orleans, is an attorney who was admitted to the Florida Bar on December 10, 1980. He is the incumbent. He filed on February 20, 2009. As of January 1, 2009 he had not updated his campaign website from the 2008 election. In the 2008 primary Rouson ran under the slogan “Bold, Courageous Leadership” and won his party’s nomination with 4,615 votes to 3,099 votes for Charles S. McKenzie, and in the general election Rouson won with 42,552 votes to 526 votes for write-in candidate Calvester Benjamin-Anderson. Rouson is a cultural Marxist who divides people by race, class, gender and sexual orientation, and so has a strong following among the Liberal-Left.

By his actions and associations, Rouson is also the most controversial candidate in the 2010 Pinellas legislative races. He favors gay adoption. In 2000 the federal government put a lien on his home on 58th Avenue South in Pinellas Point for failing to pay $361,263 in income taxes for the period 1987 to 1997. Rouson, who drove a Jaguar at the time, filed for bankruptcy in early 2002 and in December 2002 the judge discharged more than $522,000 of Rouson’s debt, which included everything from his student loan to a $148 cellular telephone bill. On August 31, 2000, pursuant to court order, Rouson received a public reprimand from the Florida Supreme Court in case SC00-898 for snooping through an opposing counsel’s files during a courtroom recess. While still in Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings and facing the forced sale of one house in 2003 he got a very unusual $263,150 loan from Cornerstone Community Bank to build a 4,400 square foot home. According to the St. Petersburg Times, of 366 mortgage loans Cornerstone made to individuals in Pinellas County that year, Rouson’s was the only one to a borrower in bankruptcy. On December 20, 2003, Rouson was arrested when he refused to sign traffic citations for speeding, not wearing a seat belt, operating a motor vehicle without insurance, and failing to signal. After the stop, he proclaimed to the press his belief that “race is an element of the citations,” but on March 16 he pled guilty to the crime of refusing to sign the citations, was fined $133 and was ordered to perform 45 hours of community service. In June 2005, Rouson advocated that the 5.5-square-mile area of Midtown seceed from St. Petersburg. On July 13, 2005, Rouson was found guilty by a jury of trespassing when he staged what some believe to be a political publicity stunt at a local tobacco shop, similar to a stunt he staged in 2001. After being stopped on October 24, 2005 for an expired tag, Rouson retaliated against the officer who conducted the stop by filing a discourtesy complaint with the officer’s department. The complaint was investigated by the department’s internal affairs division and was thrown out in February 2006 as being unfounded.

Rouson has also been associated with controversial figures such as political consultant Barry Edwards and Democrat blogger Peter Schorsch. In 2008, Rouson had Edwards working in his Tallahassee office as a “legislative intern,” although the name of Edwards did not appear on the state payroll. On December 1, 2008, Rouson was fined $750 by the Florida Elections Commission for violations of state elections laws. On December 5, 2008 Rouson was sued for breach of contract by Wachovia Bank, claiming that Rouson failed to pay a $100,000 loan he took out in 2004 while he was running a law firm in St. Petersburg. According to court records, however, the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff on January 29, 2009, indicating a settlement acceptable to Wachovia was reached. Rouson also has served on a “shadow panel” that operates outside the public light and beyond the purview of the state’s judicial nominating commissions to review those seeking judicial appointments from Governor Charlie Crist.

Rouson’s campaign treasurer is Elise B. Minkoff, wife of Circuit Court Judge Tommy Minkoff. In his campaign financial activity reports covering the period January 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010, Rouson reported 118 contributions (coming mostly from lobbyists, attorneys and political action committees) comprising $48.300.00 in monetary contributions and $54.36 in in-kind contributions, with expenditures of $12,491.26. Listed expenditures include $5,125.00 between June 8 and August 14, 2009 to Gravitas LLC, 425 45th Avenue South #131, St. Petersburg, a firm associated with Barry Edwards, plus another $4,726.22 paid directly to Barry Edwards on November 17, 2009, for a total of $9,851.22 paid to Edwards and his company. Incidentally, Edwards and his company also benefitted in the period July 9 to October 15, 2009 from the campaign of Rouson’s wife, who was running for St. Petersburg City Council and who listed among her expenditures $10,177 to Edwards and $3,378.71 to Gravitas, for a total of $23,406.93 paid by the Rousons to Edwards and his company in the last half of 2009.

Rouson’s 2009 Florida Chamber of Commerce Rating is 38%, his 2009 Associated Industries of Florida Rating is 59%, and his 2009 Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida Rating is 17%. His 2008 Florida Conservation Alliance Rating was 47.8%. Despite all of the controversy surrounding Rouson, it is extremely unlikely at this point that Rouson’s bid for re-election will be thwarted.

More information about Rouson can be found here.

April Danielle Sheffield (D) filed on May 6, 2010 and made the ballot by collecting petition signatures. She has a campaign website and is on Facebook and Twitter. Sheffield is endorsed by ActBlue. Her campaign theme is “A Real Democrat for District 55” — a direct reference to the party-flipping of her opponent Darryl Rouson. She has not reported any campaign finance activity to date. Sheffield appears to be a serious candidate facing an uphill battle against one of the most entrenched political hacks in the State of Florida. It is unlikely at this point that she will be able to unseat her opponent in the Fall.

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3 Responses

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  1. Good research on my district, D-55.

    Tom

    January 5, 2010 at 9:37 pm

  2. You forgot to mention Mary Russell has spent 12+ years in the Navy Reserve and that she is an Intelligence Specialist attached to Special Operations at MacDill.

    Does that not fit in to your picture of who she is?

    And how bout those family values? Married 18+ years, mother of two wonderful sons who are lifeguards and give back to their community by teaching kids to swim. Year after year for four years now, these kids have followed in Mary’s footsteps devoting their time to serving their community.

    Concerned Voter

    April 20, 2010 at 8:53 pm

  3. […] PINELLAS COUNTY 2010: Those Who Would Be Our Legislators January 20102 comments […]


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