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Pittman breezes to sixth term as clerk // CLERK OF COURT

Longtime incumbent Jed Pittman won a sixth term as clerk of court, beating challenger Melt Godwin Jr. by a 3-to-1 ratio in Tuesday's primary.

Pittman drew no Democratic challenger, so the race was to determine which Republican would be clerk.

The race was marked by heated charges between the candidates about their pasts.

Godwin said Pittman's office rendered rude service and had an inflated budget, but he did not provide examples.

Pittman campaigned on his 20 years' experience in the job and commitment to serving the public, arguing they were superior to Godwin's business background.

"I'm grateful to all my deputy clerks for making this a good office," Pittman said Tuesday evening. "The good Lord was good to me. My wife was a huge help to me."

Godwin could not be reached for comment. His wife, Alice, said a family member may run for elected office again in the future.

"We're going to be helping in the community. . . . We love this county. The name Godwin is going to be here a long time."

During the campaign, she said, "We've made some good friends _ even Democrats."

Godwin, 56, owns an orange grove in Land O'Lakes and said he would bring business experience to the clerk's job. He also got some name recognition from his late father, Melt Godwin Sr., a longtime county commissioner.

During the campaign, Pittman criticized Godwin's payments of what Godwin termed "brokerage fees" to get a towing contract in 1990.

A prosecutor described the payments as a "kickback," although Godwin was never charged and testified against the state officials who got the money. Godwin said before the primary that he didn't consider the money a kickback.

Godwin criticized Pittman for investing county money in 1991 through Mike Fasano, who was at that time a stockbroker and a Republican Party official. Fasano, now a state representative, had recruited Pittman to the GOP.

The County Commission tightened rules on county investments after that episode.

Pittman is paid $88,742, and he earns an extra $2,000 because he is a certified clerk. That means he takes additional instruction from the Florida Supreme Court each year.