Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Key figures remember 2000 recount, a decade later


Ten years later, Barry Richard is still experiencing his 15 minutes of fame.

Richard is the silver-haired lawyer who successfully argued George W. Bush's side in the presidential recount that transfixed the world a decade ago this week, and next week, and the week after that ...

The airwaves were dominated by manual recounts, citizen protests, allegations of voter fraud, over-votes and under-votes and standards for voter intent.

Ground zero for it all was Tallahassee.

Reviewing those historic events this week, Richard delivered a presentation with snazzy graphics of dimpled chads, a ticking clock and the requisite sound bite of then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris certifying the Florida result in favor of Bush over Al Gore, a decision upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision on Dec. 12, 2000.

"For 36 days, Tallahassee was transformed from a quiet North Florida town to the center of the world," Richard said.

Others who played a role in the Bush v. Gore epic spoke at an evening seminar, sponsored by the Village Square. They were ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, such as Circuit Judges Nikki Clark and Terry Lewis and Craig Waters, longtime spokesman for the Florida Supreme Court.

Jorge Labarga, a Florida Supreme Court justice who was a Palm Beach County circuit judge in 2000, mistakenly believed he had escaped the "nightmare" of being assigned an election lawsuit by going to lunch the day after the election.

He got the case anyway. So many other judges recused themselves, Labarga was basically the last judge standing.

He refused to order a new election to rectify Palm Beach County's confusing "butterfly ballot" layout that handed more than 5,000 votes to Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan that were largely intended for Gore.

The case, like most others, was quickly appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ordered a rental truck to transport hundreds of thousands of disputed ballots to Tallahassee.

"The happiest day in my life, next to the day when I married my wonderful wife, was when I saw that yellow Ryder truck heading north on the Turnpike," Labarga said.

Waters, the public face of the state's high court, became a TV fixture and said his role evolved from "really bad luck."

A lawyer and former reporter, Waters protested Chief Justice Charles Wells' decision, recommended by the court's marshal, to seal off the court from the horde of media people who had descended on the capital.

"I don't think this looks good," Waters told Wells. "It's going to be used against us."

To rectify things, Waters said, his boss told him to station himself on the courthouse steps and talk to the press, where he was besieged by hot TV lights and big boom mikes equipped with puffy windscreens so large they looked like "gerbils," Waters said.

Recalling a light banter with reporters trapped in Tallahassee over Thanksgiving, Waters said he had hoped to get away for the holiday at his Aunt Ethel's family reunion in rural Elberta, Ala.

"She was hunted down by television stations," Waters said, "and the Miami Herald published her Thanksgiving menu."

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Key figures remember 2000 recount, a decade later 11/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 12, 2010 10:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: How Moffitt Cancer's M2Gen startup won $75 million from Hearst


    TAMPA — A Moffitt Cancer Center spin-off that's building a massive genetic data base of individual patient cancer information just caught the attention of a deep-pocketed health care investor.

    Richard P. Malloch is the president of Hearst Business Media, which is announcing a $75 million investment in M2Gen, the for-profit cancer informatics unit spun off by Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. Malloch's job is to find innovative investments for the Hearst family fortune. A substantial amount has been invested in health care, financial and the transportation and logistics industries.
  2. A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. [Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte | Associated Press]
  3. 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 149, collapses buildings in Mexico


    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 149 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

    A woman is lifted on a stretcher from of a building that collapsed during an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. [Rebecca Blackwell | Associated Press]
  4. FHP seeks semitrailer truck driver that left fiery wreck on I-75


    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol is looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an Interstate 75 crash that left another car burning on Tuesday afternoon.

    Troopers were looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an accident scene on Interstate 75 in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon that caused a car to catch fire. [Courtesy of Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.