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Ronda Storms bested in Brandon? Has the world gone mad?

Now this is interesting.

The Hillsborough Republican Party recently presented a straw poll done in conjunction with Republican clubs in the suburban enclaves of Brandon and FishHawk.

The results: Marco Rubio was the Republican's Republican for U.S. Senate, and, yeah, you kinda saw that coming. Bill McCollum was their guy for governor, and ditto that.

But what was this?

A Republican named Paul Phillips besting the famously fire-and-brimstone Ronda Storms in her bid to keep her state Senate seat?

Storms, topped 158 to 112 on her own east county turf, a.k.a. Rondaland? Conservative, forget-separation-of-church-and-state Storms, a darling of last year's Brandon tea party event?

Okay, yes. Polls like this are preliminary, unscientific, unpredictable, malleable, skewed, screwy, all of the above.

This one, held earlier this month and called a "fun raiser," was attended by about 350 people. A majority paid $5 to vote and could buy as many votes as they wanted. (And, no, you did not hear me say: My, how American.)

So maybe some hater bought a bunch of votes to stick it to Storms, right? Certainly in her years of making headlines for being against gay pride events or even Planned Parenthood, she has not always made friends. Voters weren't asked to show ID, so some disgruntled Democrat could have slunk in and …

But Deborah Cox-Roush, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Republican Party, says she does not believe anyone bought in bulk.

So what gives? I asked around.

"I gotta tell you, it's mystified me," said Republican political consultant Mark Proctor.

"I saw that, too," said University of South Florida political science wonk Susan MacManus, who mentioned "an anti-incumbent mood out there" and called this the year "when I think the unexpected is the norm."

Some speculated about the presence that day of many young Republicans who might throw their votes to Phillips. And Phillips, the lawyer from Valrico taking on Storms? He was surprised, too. And, no, he says, he did not vote.

Patrick Manteiga, publisher of La Gaceta newspaper and writer of the deliciously gossipy political column As We Heard It, had a theory. "I believe that Rondaland was happy when Ronda was a county commissioner," he said. But when local politicians hit higher office, they spend more time in Tallahassee. "If you're not around, they feel neglected."

And, finally, from Storms herself in an e-mail: "While I certainly agree there is an anti-incumbent sentiment amongst some folks, I haven't seen evidence of that in my campaign." She collected plenty of signatures to qualify by petition and has "marveled" at the support.

So what does it all mean?

Maybe nothing.

Storms will always be the one voting for a bill to force a woman to pay for and undergo an unnecessary ultrasound before she can get a legal abortion. Then she will suddenly make sense with a push for better oversight on how kids in state care are prescribed psychiatric drugs following the suicide of a heavily medicated 7-year-old foster child.

My theory: Storms will still be a bear to beat, particularly if she ever listens to what people are saying about her.

Ronda Storms bested in Brandon? Has the world gone mad? 05/27/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 7:06pm]
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