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Election qualifying opens for 2012 Florida state and local races

Florida's election season is not yet in full swing, but it will be by Friday, at high noon.

Enjoy the last few days of bliss. After that, get ready to see gaudy candidate signs sprouting like kudzu on every corner and the always-enjoyable automated "robo" calls during dinner. (Political calls aren't covered by "do not call" restrictions.)

No, this isn't about the battle for the White House. It's about the races for Congress, state Legislature, sheriff, county commission, school board, sheriff and circuit judge, to name a few.

Think of it as job creation for politicians.

At noon Monday, candidates began filtering into state elections offices in Tallahassee, clutching the vital paperwork to secure a ballot position. Qualifying will end at noon Friday.

Redistricting adds a jolt of uncertainty this year, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Across the state, candidates are jockeying for position and looking for openings like a halfback in a third-and-2 situation. Some will jump to what they see as more favorable districts, while others will simply stay put.

On Twitter, Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, the next House speaker, said: "Good way to start off my morning! Rep. Shawn Harrison sticks to House."

Harrison, a Tampa Republican, was eyeing the suddenly open Senate seat created when Sen. Ronda Storms announced she would run for county property appraiser.

The luckiest candidates won't draw opposition and will waltz into office unscathed by an attack ad.

First in line at the elections office was James Jett, 59, the court clerk in Clay County near Jacksonville, who's running for Congress in the 3rd District against Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, among others.

Jett created a firestorm by accusing Stearns and his supporters, including long-time GOP activist Jud Sapp, of offering money and other inducements to push him out of the race.

"They offered me some things to get out: money, positions," Jett said Monday. "I refused. I felt like they'd crossed the line."

Jett went to the sheriff and says the matter is now in the hands of FBI agents.

Stearns has repeatedly issued strong denials of any impropriety.

Every candidate dreads a paperwork mistake that could ruin their dreams, so the smart ones turn in their paperwork early to give elections clerks time to spot any problems.

Two years ago, a House candidate wrote a check for a qualifying fee that was one penny less than the law required. He got knocked off the ballot.

Things went more smoothly Monday than in 2002, when a FedEx jet carrying dozens of candidates' papers crashed at the Tallahassee airport.

Rep. Irv Slosberg of Boca Raton was the first Democrat to show up Monday, fresh from a morning Delta flight from South Florida to the state capital. "It was great." Slosberg said. "I used free miles."

Election qualifying opens for 2012 Florida state and local races 06/04/12 [Last modified: Monday, June 4, 2012 9:48pm]
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