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Mystery candidate means closed state Senate primary

TAMPA — Who is Derek Crabb, and why is he running for the state Senate?

The candidate would say very little on Thursday, as he was busy working at the Petco store in Carrollwood.

The job pays $29,500 a year, according to a form he filed with the Supervisor of Elections Office.

He works the night shift at Target for $2,400 more.

So, who is 30-year-old Crabb?

Republican candidate Kevin Ambler wondered the same when he read Crabb's sparse financial information.

"My first thought was, my opponent might want a closed primary, so maybe he recruited this person," he said.

The opponent, County Commission member Jim Norman, is also Republican.

Because no one has filed as a Democrat, the Aug. 24 primary would have been open to all voters.

That is, until Crabb came along as a write-in, listing no political party.

The district comprises northern Hillsborough and central and eastern Pasco counties.

Speaking hurriedly from the pet store, he said he has never held public office.

When asked why he is running, he said, "I don't think I want to comment on that." Pressed for an answer, he said, "Without disclosing too much, I want my voice to be heard." Pressed even more, he added, "I'm trying to lay low right now."

Campaign documents list his address at Tuscany at Suncoast, a condominium complex in Odessa. Court records show he was born in Pennsylvania, lived in Brandon and was married in 2005.

"There's nothing to stop people from qualifying as a write-in," said Tim Bridge of the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Office.

Nor is this situation unique.

"We've got it in County Commission District 3," he said.

There, Dwight Bolden has declared himself a write-in in a sea of Democrats.

Crabb denied entering the race to close the primary.

Norman could not be reached for comment, which raises the question: Could it be Ambler who recruited Crabb to take primary votes from Norman?

No, Ambler insisted. "I never heard of him, and nobody I know has heard of him, either."

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 909-4602 or sokol@sptimes.com.

Mystery candidate means closed state Senate primary 06/17/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 5, 2010 10:03pm]
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