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John Russell gets heated with another opponent

UPDATE 5/29: John Russell never responded to a phone call requesting an interview but he posted a response below in the comments section. He doesn't explicitly refute Piccillo's description of the confrontation but denies mentioning his desire to run again for Congress. He posted video that appears to support his assertion. However, he does continue to send e-mails from his [email protected] address concerning his views on national issues. (The latest is a May 24 letter to President Barack Obama about the Iraq war.) Even his own comments below leave the issue of his candidacy unresolved.

John Russell's campaign antics are well known. His tendency to get combative is legendary. (Remember Disney?) Even Russell often repeats how Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite noted his "propensity for violence."

But this time his target isn't the Brooksville Republican. Democrat Jim Piccillo called to relay a confrontation with Russell in downtown Tampa today.

Apparently Russell, a Dade City Democrat, spoke at a rally and declared he is the best candidate to beat Brown-Waite in 2010. (I say apparently because Russell didn't return a call to confirm Piccillo's story.) The problem: he's not even a registered candidate yet and said recently he wasn't sure he would run.

Piccillo asked Russell about it after the rally. They spoke. And then Piccillo returned to his office down the street. Russell followed him. Into the building.And into Piccillo's private office. Piccillo said Russell was screaming and yelling in his face about how he was the best candidate. (I guess he forgets that he lost 3 bids for Congress.) Piccillo told him to back off, and when he didn't pushed him to regain personal space. Piccillo then told him to leave and when he didn't he called Tampa Police.

The police confronted Russell outside the building. Piccillo said Russell admitted trespassing but police made no arrest and issued no citations.

Again, this all comes from Piccillo -- though Russell will surely call with his own (much different) account -- and no police reports were made. But it fits a familiar pattern. If anything, it means the campaign is sure to only get more testy as the election nears.

John Frank, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:53am]


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