TAMPA — The man challenging County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan has filed a formal complaint with the Hillsborough's elections chief over a write-in candidate whose eleventh-hour filing will effectively disenfranchise nearly 110,000 Democrats and other voters in the August primary.
Keystone Civic Association president Tom Aderhold has written the Supervisor of Elections Office asking it to investigate "all circumstances that impact this person's eligibility to vote in Hillsborough County, and more importantly, to run for an elected position," and to postpone the vote until the general election if the investigation is still going on during the primary.
He's also hired a private investigator to dig into the past of the write-in candidate, Harold Fredrick "Bud" Gleason.
He said he also plans to file a formal complaint with the state Division of Elections, and is talking with lawyers in Tallahassee about suing Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson and Gleason.
For more than eight months, Aderhold and Hagan, both Republicans, were the only ones vying for north Hillsborough's District 2 seat. If no one filed to run against them before the close of the qualifying period on June 20, all of the area's voters would have been allowed to vote in the primary.
Then on June 17, three days before the deadline, Gleason, a 33-year-old Carrollwood Village man with no party affiliation and a checkered past, qualified as a write-in candidate.
His entry into the race shrank the number of eligible voters from 179,075 to 69,947. If the only candidates for the officer had been Hagan and Aderhold, any registered voter, regardless of party, could vote in the Republican primary.
But under state law, a write-in candidate is considered an outside opponent, and that closes the primary, limiting it to members of the candidates' party.
The rationale is that the party is picking a nominee to face another opponent, even if it is a write-in candidate who will not be on the general election ballot.
This marks the second consecutive election cycle that someone has entered the District 2 race at the last minute. With only four months left before the 2004 primary, Democrat David Cutting mounted a challenge to Hagan, the incumbent, and two other Republicans. Hagan won by a landslide.
Aderhold said he wonders if this is more than a coincidence.
For his part, Hagan said he does not "know anyone named Harold, and I sure don't know anyone named Bud."
Hagan scoffed at the idea that he would be concerned about an open primary, with Democrats and other voters participating.
"I've been on two general election ballots, and I won by 20 points and 24 points," Hagan said.
He said he is just as disappointed as Aderhold is that a write-in candidate qualified for the race.
"I was hoping to finish campaigning during the August primary," he said.
Johnson could not be reached Wednesday night about what his office would do in response to the complaint.
Aderhold said the suit, if filed, may include the state Division of Elections. It was that agency's 2000 ruling that said write-in candidates closed primary elections. Aderhold has consulted with state Sen. Dave Aronberg, the South Florida Democrat behind several statewide fights against what he regards as a loophole.
Aronberg, who is leading a suit against a Pasco County Commission write-in candidate, said he has put Aderhold in touch with the head of his legal team, Ron Meyer of Tallahassee. Last year, Meyer represented a Lake County man who unsuccessfully contested the legality of the 2000 opinion.
Gleason could not be reached for comment. He lists the Links at Carrollwood Apartment Homes as his primary residence in papers filed with the Supervisor of Elections' Office. A man who identified himself as his roommate declined to comment.
Pennsylvania court records show that Gleason has entered six guilty pleas on third-degree misdemeanor charges ranging from theft by deception to bad checks.
In filing papers, Gleason estimates his annual salary at O'Brien's Irish Pub is $16,000 and his net worth as $850. He says he has $700 in assets.
The seven-member board that Gleason hopes to join oversees a $3.9-billion budget.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Rodney Thrash can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 269-5303.