Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kevin Ambler says he'll stop fighting to oust Jim Norman from Nov. 2 ballot

TAMPA — Kevin Ambler says he will not fight an appellate court's ruling that put Jim Norman back on Tuesday's ballot for state Senate District 12.

"My family and I decided that the right thing now is not to pursue legal action," he said Thursday.

Ambler's decision ends a battle that began with his entrance in the race to represent north Hillsborough and central Pasco counties, and made headlines from Tampa to Tallahassee.

Along the way there were allegations of corruption and betrayal from two well-known north Hillsborough politicians and a half-dozen lawyers.

Ambler maintained, and still maintains, that he did the right thing in suing.

"As you know, sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing to do," he said. "I put principles over politics."

During a trial in Tallahassee, Ambler and Norman testified they had been friends, working on one another's campaigns and socializing with their wives, until the two decided to go after the same Senate seat.

Both had reached term limits in their current offices, Ambler as a state representative and Norman as a Hillsborough commissioner.

In a race with no Democrats, Norman campaigned as the better conservative while Ambler said he was more qualified for state office. As with many close races, there were attack ads and whisper campaigns.

Republican party leaders put their support behind Norman, who was able to raise twice as much money and won the Aug. 24 primary by 12 points.

That's when things escalated.

Ambler sued Norman in Leon County Circuit Court, alleging Norman was not qualified to run because his disclosure forms did not mention a house in Arkansas that Norman's wife, Mearline, bought with $500,000 from influential businessman Ralph Hughes.

The evidence and testimony that followed convinced Judge Jackie Fulford that Hughes, who has since died, gave Norman a gift that he did not report. She tossed him off the ballot as, Ambler had requested.

But Fulford did not grant Ambler his other wish, which was to be named the nominee in Norman's place, as the only Republican who had qualified.

Fulford left the matter of Norman's replacement to the state Division of Elections and the Republican Party, who chose former state Rep. Rob Wallace while Norman filed an appeal.

Word came down Wednesay that Norman had prevailed in the 1st District Court of Appeal.

There, judges ruled that regardless of Fulfords' opinion about Norman and the house in Arkansas, the election challenge was a matter for the state Commission on Ethics and the Legislature, not the courts.

What's more, they wrote, Norman met the requirements for candidacy under the Florida Constitution.

Lawyers who followed the case said an appeal to the Supreme Court would be an uphill battle, especially this close to the election.

Ambler said Thursday he was disappointed with the appellate court ruling but happy that the court clarified how and when election lawsuits should be filed.

He said he didn't regret his lawsuit, which brought information about his opponent into the light.

"Voters now have a much more complete set of facts and information available to them," Ambler said. "Having that complete information is important. It's the most important thing in any election."

The FBI is conducting a separate inquiry into Norman's relationship with Hughes.

Ambler said he has not been subpoenaed, but pointed out that all the depositions and testimony taken in the Tallahassee case will now be public record.

"The FBI and the U.S. Attorney now have a lot more facts than they did a month ago," he said.

Kevin Ambler says he'll stop fighting to oust Jim Norman from Nov. 2 ballot 10/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 11:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Cavern' closes westbound lanes on E Fletcher Avenue in Hillsborough County

    Roads

    Westbound lanes of E Fletcher Avenue are closed near the Hillsborough River to repair what the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office terms a "cavern" that formed under the roadway.

  2. Joss Whedon's ex-wife accuses him of cheating, being 'hypocrite preaching feminist ideals'

    Celebrities

    Joss Whedon made his name directing cult television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and big-budget action movies, which often featured women in empowering roles. Many applauded him for being a champion of women, a feminist in an industry accused of misogyny and sexism.

    Joss Whedon at the screening of "Much Ado About Nothing" in 2014. Whedon's ex-wife Kai Cole alleged in an essay published by The Wrap on Sunday that Whedon had multiple affairs during their 16-year marriage. (Associated Press)
  3. Pasco school's parents, principal seek compromise on behavior plan

    Blogs

    Leaders of a Pasco County elementary school that has come under criticism for its new behavior plan have offered an alternative model that sticks to its goals while also better considering younger children who might not understand the original terminology.

    This is the original chart that upset parents with wording such as "anarchy" and "conform to peer pressure" without any context.
  4. Jon Gruden, Rex Ryan meet with Jameis Winston on 'Hard Knocks'

    Bucs

    One of the interesting guest stars on HBO's "Hard Knocks", which covers every minute of the Bucs' training camp and preseason, has been Jon Gruden. The legendary former Tampa Bay coach has popped up from time …

    In a teaser clip from episode 3 of "Hard Knocks", Jon Gruden and fellow former coach Rex Ryan meet with Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston to discuss his past and future in the NFL. [HBO/NFL FILMS]
  5. German police seize thousands of 'Trump' ecstasy tablets

    National

    BERLIN — German police say they have seized thousands of tablets of the party drug ecstasy in the shape of Donald Trump's head, a haul with an estimated street value of 39,000 euros ($45,900.)

    This undated  picture provided by Polizeiinspektion Osnabrueck police shows an ecstasy pill. German police say they have seized thousands of ecstasy pills in the shape of President Donald Trump's head, a haul  with an estimated street value of 39,000 euros ($45,900). Police in Osnabrueck, in northwestern Germany, say they found the drugs during a check Saturday evening on an Austrian-registered car on the A30 highway. [Police Osnabrueck via AP]