Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Voters pay for his air of confidence

In his years running Hillsborough's elections office, Buddy Johnson has had a pack of headlines over his shoulder like he was Tippi Hedren and they were the birds.

For instance: Voting locations up and moved without written notice to actual voters. A Johnson employee got hush money on his way out the door like he was working for a corporate law firm rather than an (allegedly) open and transparent public office. Lawyers in a voting rights deposition concluded Johnson himself couldn't answer questions about how things run. Then there was the matter of his own delinquent property taxes.

So you'd think the man would be saying: Enough with the publicity already.

But there's Johnson, pictured in a sharp dark suit and a winning politician's smile, the very embodiment of confidence.

In fact, that's exactly what the print over his head says: A New Vote of Confidence. Buddy Johnson. Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. Just in case confidence was the very thing you'd lost.

So this is a smart campaign ad for an embattled politician hoping like heck to hang on to his job come November, right?


This comes from voter education materials paid for not with Johnson's campaign funds but with tax money.

Another proposed slogan is TRUSTWORTHY, ostensibly to quell any uneasiness about a new way of voting rather than about Johnson's own troubled tenure. But nice double meaning anyway.

Johnson also bought pricey cable TV spots featuring himself, as well as 100,000 pens with his name on them, as reported by the Times' Janet Zink.

So do we really need his mug to convince us the new optical scan machines are easy and dependable?

Johnson faces a thus-far lukewarm bid by Democrat Phyllis Busansky to take the job out from under him. Busansky has raised nearly three times as much money. But factor in that "voter education" — the kind of publicity (somebody else's) money apparently can buy — and you'd have to say he's way ahead in terms of exposure.

Oh, he has spent some money. Campaign signs printed in distinctive swirly red script reminiscent of his old BuddyFreddy's restaurant are popping up, making me think of cobbler so sweet your teeth ache, and of political home cookin' in general.

Johnson is certainly not the first incumbent to throw his name and face around at an opportune moment. Some elections supervisors say they don't — one took his voice off a radio ad when his race became contested — to avoid the appearance of anything untoward.

Others say they have no problem with it.

Illegal? Nah.

A tad smelly? Maybe.

A fine line? No question.

Some would even call it smart, or in the alternative, slick.

But add it to all the other Johnson-related news, and confidence is the opposite of what I come up with.

Because it's not the Mosquito Control Board he's running over there. Johnson has to pull off a big challenge —some would say a big miracle — in November. And, no, not just his race to keep his seat. He has to run this critically important and historic presidential election for Hillsborough County.

Confidence? Right about now, I think we'd all vote for that.

Voters pay for his air of confidence 10/02/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 3, 2008 7:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Back in bargaining, Hillsborough school district and its teachers are $50 million apart


    It started off nice and friendly. Gretchen Saunders, chief business officer for the Hillsborough County Public Schools passed candy around the room. Negotiators for the district and the teachers' union commended one another for their good work during Hurricane Irma. The union thanked the district for paying everybody a …

    This a breakdown of what the school district says the teachers' union requests would cost if granted. The union rejects many of these numbers.
  2. Federal study says humans harmed by dispersant used during Deepwater Horizon


    A first-of-its-kind scientific study has determined that the dispersant BP sprayed at the oil gushing from the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010 harmed human health.

  3. Across Tampa Bay, local commercial banks and credit unions appear healthy


    In another sign of economic vitality, Florida's home-grown banking industry demonstrated strong bench strength in the latest quarterly analysis by Bauer Financial. The vast majority of commercial banks with headquarters in Florida received five "stars" from Bauer, which is the highest ranking of health on its 0-to-5 …

    Several years ago, First Home Bank in Seminole faced regulators breathing down its neck for inaedquate controls and financial weakness. Under CEO 
Anthony N. Leo, the bank has rebounded. It received a top-rated "5" star rating from Bauer Financial in the latest quarter. Most area banks are doing better these days. [SCOTT KEELER      |     TIMES]
  4. Two linemen lose their wedding rings in Tampa Bay. So far one has been found and returned.

    Human Interest

    Two linemen who spent days restoring power in the Tampa Bay area had the same unfortunate mishap: They lost their wedding rings.

    Facebook helped Michael White find the wedding ring he lost while helping restore power in Tampa Bay.
  5. Need is now for new mental health center at Bay Pines, veterans say


    ST. PETERSBURG — Veteran Ellsworth "Tony" Williams says the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System's new mental health center will help fill an immediate need.

    The new mental health center at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System stands four stories tall and was built at a cost of $92 million. It will centralize services that before were scattered. [HOWARD ALTMAN   |   Staff]