Pasco state House candidate raises questions about 9/11

LAND O'LAKES — The five-year anniversary of 9/11 approached, just one month away. Strother Hammond sat at a computer, his fingers hovering over the keys, his mind churning. He tapped out a message, hit the enter key.

"I believe 99.991% of America knows 911 is a lie deep down, but they just need the bucket of water dumped on the witch," he wrote. "This is critical to remember. As soon as everyone realizes that everyone else is wondering the same thing, the truth of 911 will sweep through like a thief in the night."

He said he found a poll reporting that 36 percent of Americans didn't believe the explanations of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It took only 33 percent of colonialists to incite the American Revolution, he said.

In the "about me" section of his profile on the website 911blogger.com, he tapped out, speaking to a forum of like-minded bloggers, "I strongly believe that 9/11 was an inside job. We have to seek the truth and let it be known to the world."

That was six years ago. Sitting last week in the kitchen of his airy home in Land O'Lakes, Hammond said he had been angry that Ground Zero was not treated like a crime scene. He paused, said he didn't support the war in Iraq and disapproves of America's "constant state of war."

His political consultant, Danielle Alexandre, sat next to him at the kitchen table, her brow furrowed. She put out a hand before he said more.

Any opinions held by Hammond concerning foreign affairs and national issues are moot, she said, since he is currently running for Pasco's District 37 seat in the Florida House of Representatives, where he would be concerned with state issues, not national ones.

• • •

Whatever his beliefs in 2006, his 2012 initiatives are outlined on his website, strother hammond.com. Many of them concern national affairs and the federal government.

One goal is to continue to speak out against the president's health care reform act, which the Supreme Court upheld Thursday.

He also said he wants to restore civil liberties he believes are violated by the federal government. For example, he said the federal government arrests and charges American citizens living overseas with acts of terrorism, ignoring constitutional rights of due process. He said states need to decry this practice immediately.

But Hammond, 37, has one main intent, the one that made him finally decide to run for the state Legislature. He wants to represent people rather than money. He said he believes most politicians represent money rather than constituents.

Hammond said he wants to accept donations from individuals and the small, local businesses creating jobs throughout Pasco County. Currently, no donations to Hammond's campaign are listed by the Florida Division of Elections, which tracks national, state and local campaign donations.

His opponent, state Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, has collected just under $190,000 in donations for his campaign. His contributions range from $5 from individuals and local businesses to $500 from national banks and insurance companies.

Both men are vying for the redrawn District 37, which roughly covers the area from Little Road to central Pasco, just east of U.S. 41.

Though Corcoran has just one term under his belt, he has the backing of prominent Republicans, including longtime friend state Sen. Mike Fasano. Last year, fellow Republicans selected Corcoran to be speaker of the House for 2017-18, if it has a Republican majority.

Corcoran and Hammond will square off in the Aug. 14 GOP primary. Only registered Republicans may vote in that contest, as there is a write-in candidate on the November ballot.

Corcoran said he plans to focus on his own campaign rather than attack Hammond's. He said knows little about his opponent, as Hammond is new to the political sphere.

• • •

Before Hammond immersed himself in a world that is donations and speeches and polls, he was like many men: focused on family, his church, his work.

Hammond sells insurance policies for long-term care. He touts his work as an instructor for the state's Long Term Care Insurance Partnership Program, which promotes private insurance policies to reduce the reliance on Medicaid for things like assisted living or nursing home care. He volunteered for several years at hospice.

His three children, aged between 3 and 6, are homeschooled by his wife, Britta. Their fourth child is due in a few months.

Every Sunday the group congregates to Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Land O'Lakes, then returns home to incorporate the church's lessons into basic math and English.

It was not a smooth path to get to where he is now, and there were stumbles along the way, Hammond admitted. In 2002, just months after marrying Britta, Hammond was arrested in Tampa and charged with driving under the influence with property damage. Records show he was convicted and lost his license for six months. Remembering, Hammond's face darkened.

"Thank God no one was hurt," Britta said last weekend, sitting across the kitchen table from Hammond, a hand resting on her belly. She nodded at her youngest, who was whispering a plea for a cookie, set on a plate between her parents.

Hammond and his wife don't drink now, don't allow alcohol in their home. The charge was a piece of a past Hammond buried when he began his conversion to Catholicism in 2009.

Two years after the DUI, Hammond and Britta filed for bankruptcy. A business venture Hammond entered with his father in movie memorabilia and restoration failed in 2004, after a succession of hurricanes damaged the inventory.

The couple own their home in Tierra del Sol and can afford to let Britta stay at home. They've come far, Hammond said.

• • •

Though his political consultant insisted Hammond's views of six years ago have no bearing on his 2012 campaign, Pasco Republicans may still have questions about the doctrine Hammond has held in the past as they prepare to choose between him or Corcoran in August.

Some of his positions — for instance, his support of stem cell research — don't align with the party platform. He considers himself a Florida Republican, he said, far more than a national one.

Again in 2006, a month before the bulk of Hammond's posts declaring 9/11 to be an inside job, he sat at the computer. He analyzed what he saw as flaws in current society, weighed solutions. He called on books he'd studied, scanned web sites, tapped out ideas, hit enter. He posted a list on cotiy.com under his own name titled, "How can the human race survive the next hundred years?"

His views were expansive, covering everything from pollution control to totalitarian regimes.

"Expand stem cell technology."

"Take the profit out of war, i.e. legislation to limit profit margins on weapon sales."

"Expand black hole research for the development of space travel and energy technology."

"Ban research into black hole technology being used for weapon systems."

"Launch extensive voluntary incentive program to encourage families to have two or less children, including contractual, financial incentives. Ban involuntary programs."

"Socially, a correction is about to happen when the baby boomers go into the long-term care range. Once they need long-term care, the 'it's all about me' phase will begin to reverse."

"Totalitarian regimes should have all of the financial headaches that we can give them without resorting to war."

Lee Logan and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Mary Kenney can be reached at mkenney@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6247.

. Fast facts

Strother Hammond

Born: 1974 in Newport Beach, Calif. Moved to Tampa at age 14.

Education: Bachelor of science in industrial engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, 1997.

Party: Republican.

Religion: Catholic (born Episcopalian, converted after marriage).

Pasco state House candidate raises questions about 9/11 06/30/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 30, 2012 2:41pm]

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