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Sue Carlton, Times Columnist

Sue Carlton

Sue Carlton is a native Floridian from a longtime Southern family that her father always said consisted of thieves and cattle rustlers run out of Georgia. She grew up in Miami and joined the Tampa Bay Times in 1988. Over the years she has covered community news, politics, cops, government, and her all-time favorite, criminal courts. For nearly nine years she wrote about the kind of strange cases that only seem to happen here, about intriguing legal issues and courthouse politics. On that beat, she authored a lengthy narrative series on a trooper who killed his wife and co-authored a series on a suburban mother murdered by her teenage daughter and her friends. Sue was the deputy editor of the features section and was the Tampa city editor before she became a columnist in 2005. Three times a week, she writes about politics, outrages, observations, court cases of the day and whatever else comes up. She lives in Tampa with her husband and their very good dog.

Phone: (813) 226-3376 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 3376


  1. Carlton: Tampa does Democrats, but how about architects?


    Hard to say what's most surprising about Mickey Jacob's name being added to the list of rumored contenders to replace Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn when he term-limits out in three years. (A departure that, by the way, may require a SWAT team, given Buckhorn's fondness for the job.)

    So is it most surprising that:

    1. Jacob is very much not-from-here — an immigrant, as he likes to say, Canada-born and naturalized 16 years ago?...

    Mickey Jacob
  2. Carlton: Even in a political world gone mad, truth in ads matters


    We are busy with our actual lives, busy with work, kids and whether we remembered to buy dog food. What's more, we are battered to numbness by this particularly bruising political season, and so maybe we do not notice when shaded truths and outright distortions land in our mailboxes as Election Day looms.

    Which, the cynical would say, is what some people bank on.

    Republican State House Majority Leader Dana Young is squaring off against Tampa lawyer and Democrat Bob Buesing for an open Florida Senate seat — with strip club owner Joe Redner and Air Force reservist Sheldon Upthegrove running as no-party candidates. It's a close race that deserves a fair fight....

    This mailer from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee targets Bob Buesing, a Democrat running in state Senate District 18. [Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee photo] 
  3. Carlton: Trump, Clinton, and the politics of civility on a neighborhood street

    Human Interest

    On a quiet, curving street in a neighborhood north of downtown Tampa, I spot what surely has to be war: Two residents facing off over what has been one ugly presidential election.

    Actually, at first I thought I was seeing a single house divided: a tidy bungalow sporting yard signs for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

    Now how nuclear do you suppose dinnertime conversations could get in that house? Did divorce lawyers discreetly leave their business cards in the mailbox?...

  4. Carlton: Manipulating the right to vote: Is this who we are?


    Given the utterly surreal election year we're in, it's getting boring saying this.

    Is this really who we are?

    For the moment, I don't mean that predatory talk about women from someone who wants to be our president. Or even the fact that basic civility has become as quaint as a pocket hanky.

    This one is homegrown in Florida.

    Gov. Rick Scott was enjoying a brief moment of widespread approval for his steady straight talk when Hurricane Matthew was threatening our state. Scott has been so unpopular over the years you would think he might want to savor the moment, enjoy it a little, but no. He quickly ruined it by being — actually, pretty much the guy he's always been....

  5. Tampa's streetcar: City's prettiest boondoggle or actual commuter option?


    Dick Greco looks lonely.

    Not actual Dick Greco, arguably the chattiest, most huggy mayor ever to run the city of Tampa. This is the statue of Greco that sits on a bus bench at the downtown streetcar station that bears his name, Greco's bronzed arm stretched across the back, awaiting friend and stranger alike.

    But on a busy Monday morning, as commuters in cars stream into a city just waking up, Greco has no takers — except the homeless guy rousing himself from his blankets on the pavement nearby....

    James Michael, 59, a motorman with the TECO Street Car Line, waves at the other operating streetcar near the Aquarium early Monday morning, Sept. 26, 2016.  On Monday, TECO street cars began a weekday morning service which starts at 7 a.m. and will operate on this new schedule through March 24, 2017. JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

  6. Neighborhood Bistro: Biryani Cafe proves to be hidden gem

    Human Interest

    WHAT I ATE: My dining companion and I shared the veggie samosas — two giant puffs of a fragrant filled pastry that shattered satisfyingly under your fork. My entree was the chana masala, a vegetarian chickpea dish in a spicy sauce. My dining companion ordered the butter chicken in a rich sauce, and both were served with a generous portion of white biryani rice. We could smell the hot, fresh garlic naan bread halfway to our table. Dinner portions are generous and definitely doggy baggable....

    Chana masala is on the menu at Biryani.
  7. Carlton: Even when you're from here, no way to reason with hurricane season


    It is a true fact that ours is an endlessly mockable state, given our twisted politics and our tendency to be the backdrop to crimes weirder than anywhere else. But there is much to like about Florida: our perpetual sunshine, the beaches and the breathtaking natural resources that developers haven't managed to pave over just yet.

    We also have Zika and sinkholes that swallow actual houses. And we have hurricanes....

    Emily Vulpi, 29, laughs as the winds pick up while she walks along the beach Thursday with Ryan Bell, 28, ahead of Hurricane Matthew in Daytona Beach. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  8. You heard it here: On the Howard Frankland Bridge, government listened


    Wait a minute: Government actually listened?

    Maybe that should be more affirmative: Government actually listened.

    With enthusiastic punctuation, even: Government actually listened!

    In a surprise U-turn this week, the Florida Department of Transportation abruptly removed a big little detail from its controversial $6 billion Tampa Bay Express highway improvement plan — a detail that got people riled, and with good reason....

    The northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge. [Times files]
  9. Carlton: Defending an alleged white supremacist — a lawyer's job in black and white


    It's not even the first time lawyer Grady Irvin Jr. will share a defense table with a white supremacist.

    Make that alleged white supremacist, though the Nazi-themed tattoos might be a giveaway.

    The case in federal court isn't one you would pay much attention to. Michael Carroll Wilson, 43 — Moon Lake Mike, to his pals — is accused of being a felon in possession of a loaded gun that deputies say they found in his bedroom when they executed a search warrant on a trailer in Pasco County....

  10. Carlton: Protect MacDill Air Force Base, as Tampa as the Cuban sandwich


    In Tampa's perpetual quest to be a more-than-second-tier city, we do have our points of pride.

    There is our uber-cool Tampa International Airport, even if construction has it looking like a war-torn country. There are those sugar-sand beaches across the bay, the sprawling University of South Florida and Ybor City, a Latin Quarter like nothing else in America. We have an emerging — is it too early to say vibrant? — downtown, wrapped in a ribbon of Riverwalk....

  11. Time Capsule: The day that Tampa banned lap dancing

    Human Interest

    Time capsule: This is a recurring Floridian magazine feature that allows readers to re-experience some of the Tampa Bay Times' best stories with the wisdom of hindsight.

    At the end of this meeting, which spilled into the early morning hours, the Tampa City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to make it illegal for an adult entertainer to work within 6 feet of a customer. The "six foot rule" is still on the books, but, says Times columnist Sue Carlton, "it's safe to say it has become very low on the police department's priority list." ...

    TP	96310	- - DELIVER TO:	Tampa	- -	12/8/99	- -	Tampa		CAPTION INFO:	strip Although the Tampa City Council passed a noncontact ordinance last week banning lap dances at adult clubs in Hillsborough County  many clubs in Tampa are still advertising and performing nude lap dances. The Mons Venus located at 2040 Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa used its billboard space to dare Mayor Dick Greco to enforce the new noncontact ordinance.		Times Photo by:	Amy Newman	- -	Story By:		- -	SCANNED BY:		- -  RUN DATE: 	12/9/99
  12. Carlton: The latest trouble with TBX: A Lexus lane coming soon to the Howard Frankland Bridge


    Let's just say this latest confusion in an already controversial plan to improve traffic around here is not exactly confidence inspiring.

    Already there's been plenty of contention over the $6 billion Tampa Bay Express interstate expansion project known as TBX — as in, "NO TBX," a sentiment posted on yard signs by people who believe it will tear the heart out of neighborhoods.

    The plan includes rebuilding what's not-so-affectionately known as Malfunction Junction, the exchange between interstates 275 and 4 at the edge of downtown Tampa. It will replace the 3-mile span of the perpetually congested northbound lanes of the Howard Frankland Bridge. And it will add nearly 100 miles of tolled express lanes for people willing and able to pay to use them while the rest of us schlubs ride in regular traffic....

    The plan includes rebuilding what's not-so-affectionately known as Malfunction Junction, the exchange between interstates 275 and 4 at the edge of downtown Tampa. It will replace the 3-mile span of the perpetually congested northbound lanes of the Howard Frankland Bridge. And it will add nearly 100 miles of tolled express lanes for people willing and able to pay to use them while the rest of us schlubs ride in regular traffic. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  13. A new frontier for Florida courts: Transgender name changes


    On a rainy summer afternoon inside the courthouse by the railroad tracks in Plant City, the case is halfway down the crowded docket.

    Petitioner: Christine Rose Novak, it reads. Name change.

    Weary-looking people fill the benches in family court, most of them here for divorces. But in the third row, wearing a vibrant blue necktie and the beginnings of a beard, sits the petitioner, his girlfriend at his side....

    Christopher Novak of Plant City smiles at Hillsborough Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan as he requests to legally change his name from Christine to Christopher in August. Sheehan approved.
  14. Carlton: Stand Your Ground insurance? It is Florida, after all

    Public Safety

    Florida facts: We have earned being called the Gunshine State. The National Rifle Association uses our lawmakers as sock puppets. And no pro-gun proposal is too absurd for these parts.

    So why should we be surprised at this latest insanity about Florida, guns and The American Way?

    As the world knows, this is loud-and-proud Stand Your Ground territory. Our law essentially says: Back down, hell — if I'm scared enough, I get to shoot. Retreat? Don't have to....

  15. Carlton: Will Tampa be The Town That Uber Forgot?


    Boy, will I miss Uber.

    Goodbye, chatty man who told me he started driving because retirement was boring. Goodbye, college kids and those driver guys who talked about their homelands in Ghana and in Syria on the way to the airport. Goodbye, Fred, who listened as I nervously practiced a speech in the backseat and gave me tips before he dropped me off.

    Seriously: Could Uber really be outta here? Could our relatively recent ridesharing option — already bolstering Tampa's rep as a practically legit city — actually have a foot out the door?...