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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Sep. 3, 2004 15 years ago

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

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This week's items: Bye, bye Buddy?Tit for tat in 13th Judicial Circuit Judge raceNo corrections necessary

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

Bye, bye Buddy?

Phillip E. iBuddyi Johnson might want to wait a few days before he asks the candidates who were locked in tight primary races on the evening of Aug. 31 whether theyire backing him for Hillsborough County elections supervisor this fall.

Those candidates and their supporters were none too pleased with Johnsonis inept handling of the primary vote tallying.

It wasnit hanging chads this time. The breakdown of a server on Johnsonis office computer network was blamed for his inability to get final vote counts in Hillsborough election contests until well after midnight.

The pols who romped hardly noticed. Within a block on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City, State Attorney Mark Ober, Property Appraiser Rob Turner and U.S. Senate candidate Betty Castor staged victory parties after building insurmountable leads early in the evening.

Candidates who werenit so lucky, though, were at the mercy of Johnsonis spastic Web site. The Hillsborough elections supervisor couldnit update the results more than once hourly. When he did, just a few thousand votes would be added each time.

At County Commissioner Pat Frankis headquarters in South Tampa, supporters were furious at the slow pace.

iThe only one whois happy about this is Rob MacKenna,i muttered Steve LaBour, who is managing Frankis bid to replace retiring Circuit Court Clerk Richard L. Ake. iHeis the only one.i

Indeed, MacKenna should have been jumping for joy.

Not only did the former Howard Dean supporter coast to an easy Democratic primary victory. He could set his autumn sights on Johnson with new hope. Johnsonis flaying away at the elections office was making a persuasive case for why general-election voters ought to give MacKenna a chance to show what he can do.

Johnson is in a precarious position. The elections supervisor, best known as a co-founder of the BuddyFreddys restaurants, preceded House Speaker Johnnie Byrd representing Plant City in the Florida Legislature.

He got the job of supervising elections in Hillsborough, not by triumphing in an actual election himself, but through the good graces of Jeb Bush. The governor handed the job to his fellow Republican after Pam Iorio quit to run successfully for Tampa mayor.

Johnson must win a full, four-year term on his own Nov. 2. His performance two months before that date with destiny has only raised the betting that the elections office will revert to Democratic hands in January.

Tit for tat

Tempers flared in the waning days of the election contest between 13th Circuit Judge Charles iEdi Bergmann and challenger Beth Gilmore Reineke. Bergmann won the race with 57.89% of the unofficial vote.

It seems Bergmann upset Reineke at a candidatesi forum when he touted the results of a recent judicial preference poll published by the Hillsborough County Bar Association. She says Bergmann violated the state Code of Judicial Conduct by saying he earned a 95% overall approval rating from bar members and then saying that she had a 59% overall disapproval rating.

So Reineke complained to the Hillsborough Judicial Campaign Practices Committee about the violation. She also questioned the pollis veracity and legality and asked the bar association to retract the results. The committee rejected her complaint against Bergmann, and the association refused her request.

On the other hand, the committee found some credence in another complaint Reineke made. The committee ruled the judge violated the code by saying a majority of the family law attorneys in Hillsborough publicly endorsed his campaign. Committee members considered that a knowing misrepresentation.

That must have struck a nerve, however. Bergmann responded two days later with five complaints about Reinekeis campaign practices. The complaint cited several statements Reineke made to the news media and her attendance at a county Democratic Executive Committee meeting.

Members of the campaign practices committee rejected all but one of Bergmannis complaints against Reineke. They say she spoke without facts last May when she told a GCBR reporter that iwith all due respect to Judge Bergmann, heis just doing time and that shows.i She did not dispute the accuracy of the statement.

The committee sent copies of its action on the rulesi violations to the chairmen of the stateis Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee and the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

No corrections necessary

Hey, we here at Coffee Talk would like to thank The Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times for the plugs. Thank you.

Both metropolitan newspapers mentioned GCBR in their Aug. 31 editions as they covered the wrist slaps administered by the Hillsborough County Judicial Campaign Practices Committee to Circuit Judge Charles iEdi Bergmann and his election challenger, Beth Gilmore Reineke (see above).

But, ahem, weid like to point out a couple of things to our friends over at the dailies, just in case they want to plug us again in the future. First, for the Tribuneis headline writers, weire not really a magazine. Weire more like a weekly newspaper. In fact, weire just like a weekly newspaper. You know, printed on newsprint, no glossy pages or anything.

For the folks over at Floridais Best Newspapero, we need to point out that GCBRis full and correct name is Gulf Coast Business Review, not the Gulf Coast Business Journal. They must have us confused with somebody else.

In defense of Floridais Humblest Newspaper, the reporters were just regurgitating what was on the Judicial Campaign Practices Committeeis written opinion that was electronically mailed to Tampa Bay area news outlets.

So that one was more the committeeis bad.

We here at Coffee Talk are hoping for better next time from the committee. Otherwise, we might have to form the Committee to Check the Accuracy of Opinions from the Hillsborough County Judicial Campaign Practices Committee.

ETC. O

By the way, those who support Terri Schindler-Schiavo wrote a press release pointing out that Michael Schiavois lawyer, George Felos, is making money outside the courtroom. If you want to hear Felos talk about the iTerri Schiavo Saga,i it costs $10,000 to $15,000, according to Eagle Talent Connection Inc., a New Jersey speakersi bureau. Wonder what Felos will receive for his Aug. 31 appearance before the Florida Supreme Court to fight Terriis Law?

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