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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

'Re-elect Herb Polson.' How could that be?




Herb Polson is running for political office for the first time in his life. But you would never know it by looking at his campaign yard signs. They say, in white uppercase letters, "Re-elect Herb Polson."

Misleading? Unethical? Polson's opponent says absolutely.

Illegal? Nope, says the state Division of Elections.

The explanation underscores the advantages of incumbency that politicians crave. But more plainly, it shows that sometimes you don't need to be elected a first time in order to be re-elected.

Here's the story:

Polson, 59, was appointed to the City Council in late 2006 to fill the term of outgoing council member Rick Kriseman. Polson was the choice of six of seven council members to fill Kriseman's seat for one year. Bob Kersteen, his opponent in the current race, got one vote.

According to the state, that makes Polson the incumbent, with the all the privileges included therein.

"I'm seated as the incumbent, and I have information in my possession that I can use re-elect in my documents," Polson said Monday, referencing an opinion of the state Division of Elections. "That's the power of the incumbent."

Forget that Polson has received a total of six votes. Or that Kersteen was elected to the council twice, receiving more than 15,000 votes during elections in 1995 and 1999.

"It a fraud," said Kersteen, 70. "It would be like me putting 'Re-elect Kersteen' on my signs."

That's not true, according to the state. If Kersteen, added "re-elect" to his signs, that would violate state election laws. There's even a 2001 case out of Miami-Dade County that talks all about this.

The disagreement may be over one hyphenated word, but it's an important one.

The fact of the matter is that, whether in Congress, the state House, or the St. Petersburg City Council, incumbents rarely lose.

The only other incumbent in this year's city election, Jamie Bennett, is practically guaranteed to win in the Nov. 6 election. He has no opponent.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:17am]


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