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Dubious tactics muddy democratic process in Pasco

Ken Littlefield touts his credentials as a fiscal conservative except when it comes to his own finances. Littlefield, a former Republican state legislator now seeking the district 2 Pasco County Commission seat, filed the standard financial disclosure forms this week when he made official his candidacy against incumbent Pat Mulieri. But, like many in public office, Littlefield displayed an inflated sense of self-worth.

In Littlefield's case, it showed up in the value he affixed to the two residential properties he owns. As Times staff writer Jodie Tillman reported, Littlefield overstated the worth of the two properties by nearly $170,000, according to the market values calculated by the property appraisers' offices in Pasco and Leon counties. The outstanding mortgages on the homes — his primary residence in Seven Oaks in Wesley Chapel and a condominium in Tallahassee — indicate Littlefield is underwater on both and his net worth is significantly less than the $465,000 he stated on his disclosure form.

Littlefield isn't alone in being affected by dropping residential real estate values. Pasco County's property tax values fell 11 percent in 2009, the third consecutive year of declines. But as someone seeking to oversee an annual county budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, Littlefield should be more precise in his future calculations. Listing outdated asking prices as legitimate property values shows either an inattention to detail or a direct attempt to mislead the public about his own financial shape. Neither is a flattering attribute for a would-be county commissioner.

Littlefield's wasn't the only dubious election-related paperwork filed during the week. Grady Peeler, a securities trader in Trinity Oaks, decided to disenfranchise more than 36,000 Democrats, independents and other Pasco voters in House District 45 not enrolled in the Republican Party.

Peeler, a supporter of Fabian Calvo, one of the three GOP candidates seeking the party's nomination, filed papers as a write-in candidate to close the primary to just Republicans. With no Democrat or independent in the race, it means the winner of the primary — Kathryn Starkey, Richard Corcoran or Calvo — will be assured victory in November with support from a minority of their future constituents. District 45, which includes southwest Pasco and northern Pinellas counties, has nearly 59,000 registered voters in Pasco County, but just 22,681 of them are Republicans.

It has become an annual scam courtesy of a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1998 that calls for open primary elections if all candidates are from the same party. Instead, write-in candidates — who are considered outside opponents and whose names will not appear on the November ballot — show up late in the candidate qualifying season to ensure tens of thousands of voters don't have a say in electing public officials. Besides District 45, the disingenuous ploy also is being used in Senate District 12, which covers much of central and eastern Pasco County.

Peeler, a member of the Pasco Republican Executive Committee, at least was candid about his intent. He said he didn't want Democrats voting in a Republican primary.

His party loyalty aside, no write-in candidate should be permitted to game the system to make sure a majority of the voters are left out of the electoral process.

Dubious tactics muddy democratic process in Pasco 06/19/10 [Last modified: Saturday, June 19, 2010 10:29am]
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