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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Here's the most painful campaign moment of the day in Florida



The Suncoast Tiger Bay Club today hosted the candidates for one of Florida's most competitive state House seats - House District 68 in Pinellas County, currently represented by outgoing state Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg. One cringe-inducing moment should serve as a lesson to anyone thinking of running for office in an area with which they are unfamiliar. Do your homework.

Republican Joseph Bensmihen, who last year ran for Congress against Lois Frankel in Palm Beach County, and just moved to St. Petersburg in April, was asked by Peter Schorsch to name three members of the Pinellas County Commission. Crickets. He couldn't name one. The audience groaned.

Asked to name the most recent mayor before Rick Kriseman, he incorrectly said Rick Baker. How about his favorite restaurant on Fourth Street? Pause. Bensmihen jokingly mentioned  Chick-fil-A and then continued to ponder. More time passed. Finally, he stuck with Chick-fil-A.


That wasn't the only gaffe of the day. At another point, the father of an autistic child praised the McKay scholarship for children with disabilities. "Buddy MacKay did a lot of great work," said Democrat Eric Lynn, referring to the former lieutenant governor who has been among the fiercest critics of school vouchers.

No, Eric. It is called the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program - named after the former Republican Florida Senate president in 2001 and 2002.

Lynn is running against Ben Diamond for the Democratic nomination. And here's an ironic tidbit for Florida political historians: Diamond used to work for Democratic CFO Alex Sink, who is backing him. Sink is widely credited with the not-so-smart decision during her late husband Bill McBride's gubernatorial campaign to push out his campaign manager, Robin Rorapaugh, right after she helped lead McBride to a big primary win over Janet Reno. Today, Rorapagh is working with Lynn -- against Sink's candidate.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 29, 2016 5:00pm]


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