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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Last-minute challengers for Sink, Putnam



The final list from the Division of Elections is ready. A couple more surprises: Alex Sink will have a Democratic primary challenger: perennial candidate and former Socialist Party 2008 presidential candidate Brian Moore.

It's completes a no-good day for Sink, who saw Democrat Bud Chiles qualify as a nonpartisan candidate at the last minute and now must "compete" in a primary instead of sitting back and watching Rick Scott and Bill McCollum tear each other apart.

Also, U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam now faces a mysterious tea party challenger named Ira Chester, a 75-year-old registered Democrat who filed 30 minutes before the deadline in closely contested race that features Democrat Scott Maddox, a former Tallahassee mayor.

"Something rots in Tallahassee: a max out donor to Maddox for Governor who is 75 years old and a lifelong Democrat gets a burning desire to run for Ag commissioner at 11:30 the last day of qualifying as a tea party candidate?" said Putnam campaign manager Trey McCarley. "This is typical behavior by Scott Maddox but the people deserve the truth about what's going on here."

Maddox qualified Thursday with former Democratic challenger Randy Hatch at his side, who leveled strong attacks on Putnam for being beholden to farming special interests. Hatch, who traveled the state (1,800 miles) riding on his tractor, decided not to run to avoid a messy primary.

Reached by phone while on the way back to Spring Hill from Tallahassee Friday evening, Moore, 67, said he was disappointed that no viable challengers had stepped up to challenge Sink, who he called the establishment candidate.

“I just got fed up seeing business as usual, so it was a last minute decision,” Moore said from a Burger King in Homosassa. “I think there are a lot of frustrated Democrats out there and their voice has not been listened to, and they haven’t had candidates to represent their progressive views.”

Last minute is relative, of course. The self-employed, part-time health care consultant and recruiter actually opened a campaign account earlier this week and started raising money to put toward the $7,816.38 filing fee.

A married father of a teenage son, Moore has run for Congress twice, the Senate once and then the presidential bid. As chairman of the Nature Coast Coalition for Peace and Justice, he has spent hours on busy street corners in Hernando and Citrus counties, protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He left his home at 4 a.m. Friday to make it to Tallahassee in time to file. His reaction when he learned he was the only other Democrat to qualify: “Great! I was hoping that would occur. I really think I’m doing the Democrats a favor, giving their membership a real alternative choice.”

He acknowledged he will be no match in a battle of war chests.

“I don’t think it’s the money that will determine the election, it’s what the candidate represents and whether they’re part of the status quo, and that’s in my favor," he said. "I think (Sink) should be on the defensive.”

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:43am]


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