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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gallagher a Hit at Hillsborough REC



The approach to Tuesday night's meeting of the Hillsborough Republican Executive Committee didn't look too good for Tom Gallagher. Charlie Crist signs lined the curb outside the Alfano Conference Center south of the University of South Florida; and a burgundy Hummer plastered with Crist signs sat, precariously perched on a grass berm with its lights flashing.

But Gallagher, delivering an expanded version of his stump speech, won repeated applause from the crowd as he talked insurance, education and tort reform. And laughter answered his story about how his Catholicism and his wife's Baptist tradition have played out with their son Charlie, who was baptized Catholic but attends a Baptist church.

The performance netted him at least one Crist supporter, maybe more: "I'm so impressed I'm going to put a Gallagher bumper sticker on my new car,'' said Faye Getchell, who said she had planned to vote for Crist but won't anymore. "(Gallagher) hit all my buttons. I'm so conservative I squeak."

"He's shaken my faith (that Crist is the best candidate)," said Jason Montes, an insurance defense lawyer wearing a Crist campaign sticker on his shirt. "I'm not so sure now who I'll vote for. I was impressed."

Also impressed were Dwight and Robin Lankford, though they said they'll still back Crist, in part because, Dwight Lankford said, they've always found him to be very personal. "When Charlie talks to you it's like you're the most important person in the conversation," he said. "Mr. Gallagher could do the job, but I like Charlie."

Crist addresses the group next month. Overheard from a Gallagher supporter, picking up a half-dozen Gallagher signs from the campaign's table as she headed home: "We'll have to have these posted everywhere next time."

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 3:07pm]


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