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Mud, letters fly in beach town election

It's clear that after last year's election, the bitterness hasn't faded.

Porter Downey, a candidate for a commission seat in next month's race, still is being haunted by a police report involving a dispute with his wife that surfaced last year in his bid for mayor. Sal Crimi, who is running for the other commission seat, recently received a letter sent to residents calling him an "argumentative, dictatorial" head of the _ seriously _ town picnic committee.

And both have had run-ins with Liz Limroth, the property manager of a condominium with about 400 residents. Crimi and Downey said that she forbade them to campaign door to door, and that she said a town ordinance made it against the law. Limroth says she never quite said that, and that state statutes made it perfectly all right for condominiums to set up rules for campaigning.

Just another campaign season in North Redington Beach?

"It becomes a personal matter vs. trying to win an office fair and square and not be disgruntled," said Commissioner Jeff Busch, who has served on the board for four years and is not up for re-election. "You can have your views and you don't have to call names. I don't think anybody wins."

Crimi, 66, is running for Seat 3 against incumbent William D. Garamella and candidates Art Adams and David Yost. Crimi said he received a letter signed "a resident" saying that he was impossible to work with as the chairman of the picnic committee.

Crimi said someone threw his flower pots to the ground one night last week. He said Limroth took down a bulletin-board notice he had put up in the condominium last week that said there is no town ordinance forbidding political solicitations.

Limroth said she didn't take the notice down. Bulletin board space is for all residents at Gull Harbor and candidates may put literature in the condominium's clubhouse, she said. She never said that a town ordinance forbade door-to-door political solicitation, Limroth said.

The rules involving candidates were improved this year after Limroth got 40 complaints of candidates going door to door last year, she said. This year, candidates will be allowed to set up tables with literature during "meet the candidate" events.

"We're trying to keep this as peaceful and quiet as it's ever been," Limroth said. "Everyone is being allowed the same access."

Downey, meanwhile, said he got a letter that is being sent to residents saying he is "still beating his wife."

"We don't need this type of person representing our town," the letter says. "Watch for the latest police report in your mail."

The latest report on file in the Police Department involving Downey is the same one that created a ruckus last year, when it was distributed publicly, police said Wednesday. It involved a fight between him and his wife. No charges were filed.

Downey, 57, said he doesn't know who distributed the recent letter.

"Intelligent people see through it," he said. "They also know it's nothing but a smear campaign story."

Voters will have some time to debate these matters, but not much. The election is March 3.