Plane troubles kept state House Republican leader John Renke from flying into Crystal River on Friday to give a boost to Crystal River lawyer Paul Hawkes' attempt to unseat Rep. Dick Locke, D-Inverness. That didn't stop Hawkes from taking advantage of the media gathering in his office. Rushing back from the airport, he dashed out a two-page, double-spaced ethics reform plan that he hadn't planned to release until sometime this week.
His plan would put some backbone into investigations by the state Ethics Commission by giving the body power to impose sanctions against legislators. Right now, the commission can only issue an opinion on whether an ethical violation took place, leaving sanctions up to the legislature.
"It's an empty shell," Hawkes said. "It makes a sham of the entire process."
Hawkes, who distributed copies of his last eight income-tax-return forms to reporters, is upset because Locke was not sanctioned for failing to report office money used for personal expenses on his tax returns. Locke later amended some of his returns and paid back taxes.
Hawkes' proposal also would ban gifts of more than $25. Locke is one of several legislators who are being investigated by the state attorney in Tallahassee for failing to report trips and meals that were paid for by lobbyists.
Locke goes on the offensive
Meanwhile, Locke has gone on the offensive with public comments and a brochure that attacks Hawkes for being a criminal defense lawyer.
"Dick Locke's job is putting them behind bars," says a flier with mug shots of eight inmates on the cover. "Paul Hawkes' job is letting them out."
Locke was a Citrus County Sheriff's Office deputy before his election to the House in 1982.
The Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA), which has endorsed Hawkes, took offense at Locke's flyer.
"Let's set the record straight," PBA legislative director David Murrell said in a news release. "Paul Hawkes was endorsed because of his strong record of fighting crime and support for tough law enforcement. Local law enforcement officers know and like Paul Hawkes; they are confident of his ability."
Hawkes has received campaign contributions from the state PBA and two local PBA chapters in southeast Florida.
The little one stays behind
As Hawkes was making a point to reporters Friday, his 22-month-old son wandered into an adjoining room and turned on the television. An older son came to the rescue and turned the volume down.
The candidates' five sons _ Jeremiah, Benjamin, Joshua, Jacob and Caleb _ have become an integral part of Hawkes' campaign this fall. In Hawkes' effort to portray himself as a family man, they have appeared in photos, walked with him door-to-door and attended fund-raisers. He has no daughters.
"I think people like the fact that I share their family values," he said.
Besides unannounced guest appearances at news conferences, Caleb, the youngest, only appears in photos. "Caleb goes nowhere," his father said. "He would tear the place apart."
A few moments later, as if to emphasize the point, Caleb reached up and turned out the lights and ceiling fan in the meeting room, bringing a reprimand from Hawkes' law partner and unsuccessful county judge candidate, Charles Horn.
The top dog always wins
Albert Jordan, a Mosquito Control Board member who is running for re-election, thinks he has a pretty good idea of who is going to win one of the three open seats in November: Ronald G. Annett of Homosassa. Jordan says he doesn't know a thing about Annett, except that his name will appear first on the ballot. Jordan, who has been on the board for "what seems like forever" said time and time again he has noticed that his supporters vote for him, then check off the top two candidates on the ballot.
Candidates forums planned
Several local communities and organizations plan political forums:
The Hernando Democratic Club will meet Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Hernando Elementary School on Croft Avenue just south of County Road 486. All local Democratic candidates are expected to attend.
The Cypress and Oaks villages of Sugarmill Woods will sponsor a candidates night at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the St. Thomas Church on U.S. 19.
The Citrus County Chronicle political forum is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Murphys Restaurant on U.S. 41 south of Inverness. Candidates will be questioned by a panel of local reporters.
The Inverness Highlands candidate night is planned for 7:30 p.m Friday at the Highlands civic building on Little Al Court.
A forum for political candidates sponsored by Beverly Hills civic organizations is planned for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Sam Kellner Auditorium on the Beverly Hills civic circle.