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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lori Edwards enjoying an unfair edge in CD 12 race, critics say



Lorisuv Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards is facing accusations she is using her office to help her run for Congress.

The Democrat has started a get-out-the vote effort that includes TV and radio ads featuring her likeness and the use of vans and SUVs such as the one pictured.

"We've been doing it for years," Judy Walker, director of community services for the elections office, told the St. Petersburg Times.

But this is no ordinary year. Edwards has mounted a strong claim to the 12th District seat now held by the GOP. So Republicans are a little more than suspicious. On Monday, the county chairman wrote a letter to Edwards asserting she has a conflict of interest and should take a leave of absence.

The campaign of Republican Dennis Ross is also raising questions.

Readers in the Tampa Bay will recall a similar controversy involving then-Hillsborough County elections supervisor Buddy Johnson. In 2008, he spent hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money for voter education material that many thought were nothing more than ads for his re-election.

"Everything about these things revolve around Buddy Johnson desperately, frantically trying to win this election by really misguiding the public at our expense," opponent (and winner) Phyllis Busansky said at the time. She died in June 2009.

A spokesman for Edwards' campaign said there was absolutely no coordination between her official duties and the campaign.

UPDATE: Edwards, in an interview, said the TV/radio spots cost a combined $14,500. She said she has no plans to recuse herself, saying Florida law ensures against conflicts by requiring elections supervisors to step off canvassing boards.

"It's transparently politically motivated," Edwards said of the criticism.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:20am]


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