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Democrat ends drive for 9th District seat

There's one less Democrat vying for the 9th District Congressional seat.

Political newcomer Greg Rubleehas pulled out of the race and says he will throw his support behind fellow Democrat Phyllis Busansky.

"This seat is so vital that I have decided to set my personal views aside to do what I can do to help Phyllis win this seat," Rublee said Monday.

Early on, Rublee's newcomer status was touted as a refreshing option to voters who may have been weary of simply passing the baton on to Republican front-runner state Rep. Gus Bilirakis from Palm Harbor.

But the tone changed when Busansky, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, entered the race.

Many Democrats considered Busansky's experience and notoriety the way to defeat Bilirakis.

Rublee, 41, said he decided to get out of the race in January. He has yet to make a public announcement.

The Oldsmar resident moved to Florida in August of 2004 from Virginia, where he worked as a former legislative liaison for the U.S. Defense Department. Politics was a logical next step, he said.

Though he won't run for District 9, Rublee said his political ambitions have not been permanently squelched.

"I intend to stay politically active," he said "This won't be the last that people hear of me politically."

Meanwhile, the Junkie has made several attempts in recent weeks to get an update from Fred Taylor, another Democratic candidate for the 9th District, on how his campaign is going. So far, no word. Fred, you there?

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ONE WONK'S TAKE: University of Virginia political scientist and quote machine Larry Sabato sees Republican-leaning Congressional District 9 as a place where Democrats can make waves.

Here's his take on a Bilirakis vs. Busansky fall election:

"After representing this Tampa-area district for over 24 years, GOP Rep. Mike Bilirakis is retiring this year, and his son, term-limited state legislator Gus Bilirakis, is running to keep this seat safely in Republican hands.

"But this district is not overwhelmingly Republican, and an open seat situation has enticed Democratic former Hillsborough County Commissioner Phyllis Busansky to make the race. If Democrats have a major wind at their backs, this race could be in play.

"Otherwise, the younger Bilirakis is a strong favorite to succeed his father."

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NEW RULES, NEW DELAYS?: Final, official results of next month's municipal elections in Pinellas County may not be known until three days after the election, the result of two new Florida campaign laws.

Although elections officials will still count ballots and announce totals on election night, new rules regarding provisional ballots will mean that a final tally won't be known until the Friday after the Tuesday election.

As part of the changes, provisional ballots, the ones challenged on the day of the vote, cannot be reviewed by the canvassing board until three days after ballots are cast, said Nancy Whitlock, a spokeswoman for the Pinellas County supervisor of elections. The extra time gives voters who cast the contested ballots a chance to make their case.

Also, voters are now required to have picture identification in order to vote, Whitlock said. Without picture ID, voters are required to cast a provisional ballot.

Because of the new ID requirement, Whitlock said elections officers are expecting more provisional ballots, the county processed just 85 during the 2004 primary, for instance.

And that means in a close Tuesday election, where a few votes could make the difference, a winner may not be known until Friday night.

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MARSHA, MARSHA, MARSHA: Following on a strong tradition of high-profile speakers to keynote the county's annual Lincoln Day Dinner, Pinellas Republicans are turning this Saturday to Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

Marsha who?

This comes from the group that brought in Jeb Bush twice since 1998 and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Barbara Bush before that?

Pinellas Republican Executive Committee Chairman Tony DiMatteo, who in 2005 championed another congressman local Republicans may not have heard of, Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, said as presidential politics rev up next year, more prominent speakers will be available.

As for now, here's a bit about Blackburn:

She was first elected to Congress in 2002. She was a former executive director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission.

As a Tennessee state senator, Blackburn fought a state income tax and eliminated a loophole allowing illegal aliens to acquire a Tennessee driver's license.

The night will also feature a tribute to outgoing Rep. Mike Bilirakis. Tickets are $75 to $125.

Nicole Johnson, Eileen Schulte, Aaron Sharockman and Adam Smith contributed to this week's Political Junkie. Contact the staff at politicaljunkie@sppimes.com.

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