Monday, October 15, 2018
Columns

Daniel Ruth: For pot-using commission candidate, campaign funds are going up in smoke

Thanks to recently defrocked public servant Kim O'Connor, this may be the first (and last) time you will ever read anything about the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District.

And see? You are probably wondering, "I didn't know we had a Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District." But we do! It's good to know.

We're aware of the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District because of O'Connor, a former member of the agency and current long-shot candidate for the Hillsborough County Commission, which we do know a great deal about and probably wish we didn't.

A few months ago O'Connor attended a meeting on water conservation programs in Okeechobee, staying at a local Holiday Inn & Express Suites.

Now, this is no knock on Okeechobee, but let's face it, there probably isn't a whole lot to do down there in terms of nightlife. Well, it appears there is one thing to do.

After O'Connor checked out, the hotel staff were aghast when they entered her room and ... were overcome by a certain aroma that might have suggested Keith Richards had been a guest instead of a member of the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District.

The hotel billed the district an extra $500 to fumigate the room, which they claimed was ripe with the strong odor of marijuana. Indeed, the Holiday Inn folks claimed the room was so enveloped in the smell of marijuana they were unable to use it for three days after O'Connor departed. Then again, the hotel probably could have rented it out to Charlie Sheen with precious little complaint.

But we digress.

O'Connor insisted she did not toke up in the room. And who knows? Perhaps while she slept, Cheech & Chong sneaked into the room looking for Dave. Hey, things happen.

In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times' Christopher O'Donnell, O'Connor admitted she does indeed enjoy a bit of Devil Weed from time to time, but she absolutely did not indulge while taking in the charms of Okeechobee.

The Mary Jane dust-up eventually led to O'Connor resigning from her vaunted position on the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District. Well, it was either voluntarily resign or run the risk of being thrown off the agency by Gov. Rick Scott.

By resigning, O'Connor avoided having the reefer madness episode come to light, which would have further damaged an already unlikely campaign for the County Commission.

It should be noted O'Connor is a Green Party candidate for the commission, so you could argue given the Green Party's support for the environment and organic foods, the marijuana stuff might be considered a plus.

But we digress again.

This is Hillsborough County after all. And the probability of any political candidate managing to suppress a resignation from office because of a connection to a drug issue is about as likely as the County Commission taking a knee during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Still, O'Connor's County Commission candidacy is a bit of a mystery. Records show that to date, she has loaned her campaign $26,000, but has only spent $50. Nor has she bothered to create a campaign website.

Forget, for the moment, the "did she or didn't she" question about using marijuana in an Okeechobee hotel room. Why would someone blow $26,000 on an ill-fated campaign that O'Connor has to know she has absolutely no chance of winning?

And yes, let's get the obvious joke out of the way right now. You have to wonder what she was smoking to make such an obviously horrible political investment.

There are any number of other more worthwhile uses one could come up with if one had an extra $26,000 laying around rather than blowing all those dollars up in a haze.

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