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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: Army-Navy rivalry taking it to the streets, or at least Dale Mabry

    Human Interest

    For a full month of football season, the signs have faced each other across busy Dale Mabry Highway in South Tampa. Actually, "faced" is too kind a word.

    Like diehard fans staring down their rivals across a packed stadium, the signs practically shouted their warring allegiances, their prediction of the enemy's swift and sure defeat.

    GO NAVY BEAT ARMY! hollered the big banner strung across the otherwise unassuming Hahn Engineering building to the east....

    Today’s Army-Navy football game has led to a banner battle between two businesses on Dale Mabry Highway.
  2. Carlton: If Trevor Dooley didn't have a gun

    Public Safety

    The gun changed everything. But that's nothing new.

    By now, it would have been a long-forgotten argument over something stupid between two men who crossed paths in a suburban Hillsborough County park. It was about nothing, really. It should have been a few words exchanged, with both men walking away grumbling about what a jerk the other guy was. No harm, no foul.

    But that day six years ago, Trevor Dooley had a gun....

  3. Carlton: TMZing the future for Bondi, Buckhorn


    To mark the end of this bizarrely improbable year, some not particularly fact-based but still possible political speculation:

    Like TMZ salivating over what's next in the Brangelina breakup, practically everyone is talking about the political future of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    Bondi, who hails from Tampa, has not always appeared to enjoy her time in Tallahassee. She seems particularly sensitive to the fair-game criticism that comes with your standard rough-and-tumble politics....

  4. Carlton: Hold fast to what Florida gave dreamers


    Apparently, Florida Sen. Greg Steube has discovered a terrible threat lurking under our noses.

    It's teenagers.

    Teenagers who live here.

    Teenagers with the audacity to want to attend college.

    Teenagers who are immigrants who might better themselves through education, get decent jobs and become productive members of society.

    And it is a scourge that must be stopped!

    Actually, this turns out to be not all that funny....

    Anally Hernandez of Auburndale listens to a news conference by Young American Dreamers on June 23, 2016 after the Supreme Court's vote blocking President Barack Obama's immigration reform plan. Hernandez has four other siblings. Her mother is an undocumented resident from Mexico. Greg Steube, a newly elected state senator, has filed a bill that would take away in-state college tuition for undocumented students. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. Carlton: Can the downtrodden USF area innovate? Believers already believe

    Economic Development

    Every city has its nominees for ugliest major street. Fowler Avenue is definitely a Tampa contender.

    It stretches wide and pedestrian-unfriendly, running east to west between the sprawling University of South Florida and car-clogged Interstate 275, a vista of fast-food joints, strip malls and pawnshops fronting bleary neighborhoods. It's been this way as long as I can remember.

    But take a ride down Fowler and surrounding environs with former Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe and he does not see this. Or maybe he's just trying to get everyone else to picture what he sees next....

  6. Steve LaBour, first Tampa City Hall neighborhood liaison, dies at 60


    TAMPA — Steve LaBour, who helped organize and empower dozens of civic associations as Tampa's first-ever neighborhood liaison, died Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016. He was 60.

    Mr. LaBour died in Charlotte, N.C., where he had moved in 2013 to be close to family. The cause of death was complications from diabetes, said his sister, Phyllis Scutt of Indian Land, S.C.

    When then-Mayor Sandy Freedman hired Mr. LaBour after her election in 1987, the city had just a handful of organized neighborhood associations. By the time she left office in 1995, there were more than 50, thanks largely to his efforts....

    Steve LaBour was hired by then-Mayor Sandy Freedman and was the first person ever to serve as the city of Tampa's neighborhood liaison.
  7. Joe Redner, from politics to pot


    Joe Redner is mad.

    I have written this before, so it is not exactly news. Tampa's strip club king and best-known political provocateur is often mad, railing about politics local and global, about elected officials he calls corrupt and rules he sees as just plain stupid.

    At this moment, Redner is talking about the stunning election that has made reality TV star and business mogul Donald Trump this country's president-elect — "The epitome of people I've been fighting all my life!" Redner says — a development that moved him to tears....

  8. Carlton: A state attorney's surprise exit


    This was Election Day's biggest shocker. Okay, locally, anyway.

    Hillsborough's affable and well-liked state attorney — endorsed even by the public defender his lawyers squared off against daily — faced a challenge by a politically unknown former federal prosecutor. Not likely, right?

    And then incumbent Mark Ober walked away with 49.5 percent of the vote, with newbie Andrew Warren getting 50.4 percent....

  9. Carlton: Why protest the presidential election? Because it's America


    Had this monumental presidential election gone the other way — the way a whole lot of people across America thought it would — right now there would be some serious eye-rolling going on.

    If the protests that have played out in cities across America were about Hillary Clinton winning — or more specifically, Donald Trump not winning — a lot of people would look at those chanting crowds waving their signs and think:...

    About 1,000 people gathered at Demens Landing in St. Petersburg to peacefully protest President-elect Donald Trump. The group then traveled through downtown and according to estimates is the largest organized protest of Donald Trump in the Tampa Bay area since the election. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  10. Carlton: Finally, Uber is legal. Now about that Public Transportation Commission...


    At last, Ubering around Hillsborough County is legal. Taking Lyft to dinner is officially kosher, too.

    Wait — you didn't know it was illegal in the first place?

    Maybe that's because even in a place painfully slow to embrace any meaningful milestone in transportation, a lot of us were already happily Ubering about. And doing so despite a bitter battle with that dated agency that regulates vehicles for hire....

    Stephanie Smith, manager of Florida public policy at Uber, shakes hands with then-Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission chairman Victor Crist, right, after Crist announced a proposed settlement between the ridesharing company and the county during a new conference Sept. 29. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  11. Carlton: Put down your phones in Tallahassee and represent us


    Dear members of the Florida House of Representatives:

    Hi. Just us, some of the people who elected you. If you have a minute, we were hoping to talk about some headlines this week.

    Not the ones about the fate of the nation and all that. This is about those new rules Rep. Richard Corcoran, the Land O' Lakes Republican who is about to become House speaker, will have waiting for you when you get to Tallahassee....

    Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran released a new playbook of how the House will run for the next two years.
  12. Carlton: They tried and failed to put Amendment 1 over on Florida voters


    As voters, we sometimes get fooled.

    Candidates and causes fill our mailboxes with fliers that say the other guy lies, cheats and deliberately blocks the Publix aisle with his cart. This particular election, some savvy ads implied a certain constitutional amendment we were about to vote on would surely fill our lives with sunshine.

    And sometimes, voters are smarter than that.

    Amendment 1 looked like a done deal for Florida. Earlier polls had the so-called solar amendment easily getting the 60 percent of the vote a proposed amendment needs to become enshrined in our state Constitution....

  13. Carlton: Janet Reno, bona fide Floridian

    Human Interest

    As a prosecutor just out of law school, Lyann Goudie found herself invited to the boss' house for a party.

    Hers was no ordinary boss.

    Miami-Dade State Attorney Janet Reno was 6 feet 1, Harvard Law, fiercely smart, a little intimidating.

    The party was at her home at the edge of the Everglades. Reno's employees' kids ran everywhere. Hot dogs grilled and peacocks roamed free. There on the porch sat Reno's mother, challenging guests to a game of cards. And there was Reno, the boss, in a long, loose, comfortable dress....

    Janet Reno once said, “I’m not fancy. I’m what I appear to be.” [BILL COOKE | Special to the Times]
  14. Carlton: A mayor, a ferry and a swarm of bees

    Public Safety

    Notes from the boat and other news of the week:

    Tongues were wagging as assorted elected officials and local leaders made the first ceremonial trip on the Cross-Bay Ferry this week.

    The subject of the chatter: the presence of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, or lack thereof.

    Buckhorn was on hand on land in Tampa to greet the ferry as it arrived on its inaugural jaunt from St. Petersburg with that city's Mayor Rick Kriseman aboard. Another batch of notables waited on the Tampa dock as the boat readied for the journey back, Buckhorn among them....

    The Cross-Bay ferry leaves downtown St. Petersburg on its debut journey across Tampa Bay last week.
  15. Carlton: Say it ain't so: Even a judicial election gets ugly


    On a pretty fall afternoon last Sunday, the good citizens of Hills­borough County stopped by the Jan Platt Library in South Tampa to cast their early votes.

    Outside, campaign supporters waved signs. Birds sang and children played. The scene was practically Rockwellian.

    Until things got "loud," "out of hand" and "ugly" — in the words of the poll worker who called 911.

    And all of this was related to a race between two people running not in that bloodbath of a campaign for president, but to be a local judge....

    Tampa lawyers Gary Dolgin and Melissa "Missy" Polo are vying for a circuit court seat. [Times files]