Promptly at 8 p.m., candidate Ron Glickman reported to the county courthouse for a scheduled television debate. Natty in a gray suit and maroon Florida tie, he was ready to talk issues. It was too late. The cameras had been turned off 10 minutes earlier when a slew of other candidates failed to show.
Such is the life of a Hillsborough politician on a smaller campaign trail.
Glickman, 34, the incumbent Democratic candidate for State House District 66, is running for his third two-year term against Republican Jose A. Mijares, 70, a Town 'N Country surgeon.
In this medium-budget campaign _ according to their financial reports, Glickman had raised $58,850 and Mijares $44,388 as of Oct. 12 _ there have been no popularity polls to measure success, no glitzy commercials.
It's a battle fought on foot. Mijares stamps his own mass mailings and knocks on 50 doors during regular outings. Glickman visits voters on weekends and spends weekdays telephoning supporters for mostly $25 and $50 contributions.
Both candidates, offering widely disparate cures for government's problems, are confident they'll win Nov. 6.
"If I've done a good job they'll re-elect me. I hope to win. I don't see why I won't, other than that there are people who dislike incumbents," Glickman said.
He's a former Hillsborough County Commissioner who thinks voters in his district, which extends south from W Kennedy Boulevard to MacDill Air Force Base, are pleased with his record.
Mijares, a Cuban exile who wrote a 477-page book describing how to turn Cuba's economy around, said he's entering politics to repay the country that has been so good to him.
"If he can reconstruct an island completely destroyed by communism, (then) he can help Florida," said his daughter, Margarita Almorza.
It has been a gentlemen's campaign, lacking the mudslinging or negative campaigning. Just a dig here and there.
From Glickman: "See, I don't pay a lot of attention to his ideas or his campaign.
... Words are really cheap."
Mijares counters: "He's an intelligent person, no doubt about that."
But maybe, he suggests, Glickman should get a job in the real world and gain some experience. "I've got the 51 years of experience."
When it comes to issues, the candidates are worlds apart.
Glickman favors making lottery proceeds an add-on to the state education budget only if social service needs don't suffer. He objects to the unfair funding ratio that cuts money to Hillsborough schools, and would support an income tax to increase revenue, but only with voter support.
"I think the top-most issue is crime, and then education, and then the environment," Glickman said.
He would limit contributions from political action committees (PACs) to $250, limit legislative gifts and keep violent criminals in prison.
Ask Mijares how he will cure government ills and he wanders into federal territory. He supports creation of "federal drug stores" to distribute free drugs such as cocaine and heroine to addicts. The catch: They would have to register and eventually get counseling. He talks about supplying those stores with marijuana and opium poppies grown on isolated land monitored by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and the Interior.
Mijares, founder and 25 percent owner of AMI Town & Country Hospital, wants all patients tested for AIDS when they are admitted to any hospital in the state. He would push for a commission to study public schools he says "are not prepared to take us into the next century." He favors stronger gun control and limited lottery winnings: $2-million to the top winner, $1-million each to three runners-up.
At a recent candidates forum, Mijares offered to give Glickman, who is getting married to a Tampa doctor in December, an early wedding present.
"A newly married couple shouldn't be apart," he said. "I'm going to defeat you in November so you can stay here with your new wife."