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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

Email: carlton@tampabay.com

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  1. Carlton: It's time to play 'Name that mayor'

    Politics

    It's the morning after Tampa's city elections, and surely the question on everyone's mind is:

    Just how did Mayor Bob Buckhorn manage to fight off that fierce election challenge from the lone write-in candidate who, interestingly, once tried to run for the Legislature while in prison?

    Kidding — the popular mayor had no real race.

    But for the kingmakers, gadflies, gossips and political junkies among us, it's never too soon to speculate. So the real question is:...

  2. Carlton: Spend now for mental health care, or spend later

    Politics

    John Jonchuck, the clearly mentally disturbed father accused of throwing his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe, from a bridge near the Sunshine Skyway to her death in the waters below, is incompetent to stand trial.

    Given no motive we've heard that could begin to make this make sense — revenge, greed, anger — no kidding.

    And there is something grimly notable about this latest....

    John Jonchuck is accused of killing his daughter.
  3. Carlton: Lessons from Trayvon Martin tragedy still not clear

    Crime

    To the surprise of pretty much no one, former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, poster-guy for Florida's flawed "stand your ground" law, will officially not face federal civil rights charges.

    The non-news came this week as the Justice Department closed its investigation into the infamous shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager Zimmerman spotted walking through a Sanford neighborhood on a rainy night three years ago and assumed the worst....

    George Zimmerman will not face federal charges.
  4. Carlton: Predicting a pathetic turnout in an election that matters

    Elections

    Call me cheesy, but I vote on election day.

    No mail-in or early voting for me — I like the bustle of the old-church-down-the-street-turned-precinct, the supporters waving warring campaign signs, the neighbors streaming in to vote and, finally, the I-Voted sticker I wear all day. (I really like my I-Voted sticker.)

    But this year, for Tampa's upcoming city elections, I gave up.

    Not on voting. But with turnout Tuesday predicted to be somewhere in the pathetic teens, election day seems lackluster. This week, I early-voted at the library. Had the place to myself. Tumbleweeds blew by. No sound but the crickets....

    Next Tuesday’s election in Tampa lacks the hustle and bustle of the buildup to last November’s general election. And that, Sue Carlton says, is a shame. [Times files (2014)
  5. Carlton: 100 years of Cuban bread at Ybor City's La Segunda Central Bakery

    Human Interest

    If you care about such things — if to you Cuban bread is not just what's holding together the meat, pickle and Swiss but a tradition in itself — the story in the newspaper a while back might have made you wistful. At least until you heard the rest.

    It was about the bread at La Segunda Central Bakery in Ybor City, one of those disappearing neighborhood places you step into like time travel....

    Kennedy McCormick, 9, looks at the pastries with her mother, Christie, at La Segunda Central Bakery in Tampa on Thursday.
  6. Carlton: Three good little laws that could actually happen. No, really.

    News

    People say there's not enough good news in the news. (Seriously, would you read it? Today, not one elementary school went on lockdown due to a criminal on the loose. No horrible crimes happened. Lawmakers did not push idiotic legislation like, say, allowing guns on college campuses, and not one person you elected made you regret it.)

    Still, in the spirit of good news, here are pending legislative efforts neither earth-shaking nor life-changing, just small and sensible and sane. Hey, it could happen....

  7. Carlton: Commissioner Jim Norman, again? Even with Housegate, it could happen

    Elections

    He was all but ousted from politics because of the questionable provenance of a certain lovely lakeside vacation home in Arkansas.

    Housegate, you could call the scandal that felled the once-powerful Hillsborough County Commissioner-turned-state Sen. Jim Norman.

    But around here we do like to recycle, even our politicians. Norman is in the headlines again.

    To hear him tell it to the Tampa Tribune recently, his problems were really just badly handled PR. And what's more, he's considering a countywide commission comeback run next year....

    The Housegate scandal felled Jim Norman, the once-powerful Hillsborough County commissioner and state senator. [DANIEL WALLACE   |   Times (2012)]
  8. Carlton: Did a judge abuse his power for a date? You deserve to know

    Courts

    Like the initial headlines about Hillsborough County Judge Eric Myers weren't troubling enough.

    The judge stands accused of hitting his wife until she blacked out during an argument at their home. He has reportedly countered by saying she attacked him first. Both are under investigation in what promises to be a spectacularly messy case — although not one that was generally expected to end Myers' career on the bench....

    Judge Eric Myers used his powers to woo his wife, she alleges.
  9. Carlton: Helen Gordon Davis still fights the good fight

    Human Interest

    “Fifty-nine cents," Helen Gordon Davis says, shaking her head. She is sitting up in bed, receiving visitors — at 88, rather elegantly, in black velour.

    On her dresser is a Molly Ivins book next to a bottle of Chanel No. 5. Outside her high-rise window is Bayshore Boulevard, that defining line of the South Tampa powerful, winding along the water to the tall buildings downtown.

    Davis is taking in neither the view nor the fine day. She is making a point:...

    Then-Sen. Helen Gordon Davis wears a toilet seat around her neck after her “potty parity” bill unanimously cleared the Senate in 1992. 
  10. Carlton: From Bradley to Phoebe — how many kids have to die?

    News

    Twenty-six years ago, it was a blond 2-year-old named Bradley McGee grinning at you from the picture in the newspaper, right under the horrific headlines about what happened to him.

    In state care for most of his short life, he was returned to a mother and stepfather who had no business with a child and punished by being brutally dunked headfirst into a toilet. His death, and his name, became synonymous with Florida's inadequate, underfunded and overwhelmed child welfare system, then the notorious HRS....

  11. Carlton: Answers from Gov. Rick Scott? If he can write the questions!

    Public Safety

    Fellow Floridians,

    It's me, Gov. Rick Scott, just starting my second term. (Turns out you disliked Charlie Crist even more than me!) Truth is, I'm already in a bit of a pickle, at least if you ask the "media."

    Me, I think things are just peachy, given jobs and tax cuts and jobs and what a beautiful day it is here in Florida and also jobs. But you may have heard something about the "media" poking its Mrs. Kravitz nose into the completely willing, totally planned, everyone-knew-about-it, utterly amicable "resignation" of the respected head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Gerald Bailey....

    Gov. Rick Scott has not answered questions on the ousting of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, but his office has published its own FAQ list.
  12. Carlton: Tampa's Gasparilla now sails sea of diversity

    Human Interest

    So it's Gasparilla again, Tampa's rich, historic tradition of pirates and parades, beer, beads, and the occasional bawd, a town at its best and, okay, sometimes its worst.

    The weather the mayor ordered should arrive on time, cool enough Saturday morning that even hardcore partiers won't start bending elbows early because it's hot and hate stumbling by noon. Because on this day, it is not unusual to spot someone enjoying a frosty beverage with the sun barely up, Tampa partying Mardi Gras style. ...

  13. Carlton: A name for Vinik's, uh, vision, and other signs of the times

    Politics

    It's almost refreshing that Jeff Vinik, the money man ready to transform a chunk of once-sleepy downtown Tampa into something bigger, does not much care for the nickname "Vinikville."

    That's the working title some use for a planned and ambitious remake of the southern end of downtown into a vibrant business, residential and entertainment district. With, if all goes well, a medical school to boot....

  14. Carlton: High court should keep that paper wall between judges and money

    Courts

    So this local lawyer who got in hot water with the Florida Bar while running for judge now has the ear of the highest court in the land.

    And what the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decides in her case could change the way judges run for office — and not for the better.

    Lawyer Lanell Williams-Yulee did not win her race five years ago against Dick Greco Jr., a longtime Hills­borough County judge who has a family name that's big in Tampa to boot....

  15. Carlton: Why Sally Harris cast the deciding vote to oust MaryEllen Elia

    Education

    Interesting fact about Sally Harris, the brand-new Hillsborough County School Board member who cast this week's deciding and explosive vote to oust schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia:

    Absolutely no one thought Harris would win her race in the first place.

    How could she? Her opponent, Michelle Shimberg, carries a very big name in this town. She got endorsements and/or donations from no less than (deep breath) the mayor, the sheriff, the state attorney, Florida's attorney general, the classroom teachers association and members of the City Council, County Commission and, oh yeah, Congress. She also raised five times more money than Harris....

    Sally Harris said MaryEllen Elia is “an icon,” but she felt change was needed.