Largo's Political Pot Begins to Heat Up for November Voting
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Election Day in Largo is 40 days away and already the political waters are coming to a slow boil.
This is the first time Largo will hold a municipal election in November rather than March, a move brought about by a voter approved charter change.
Candidates have not butted heads yet, but when they do, experienced observers will note that the "fix" is in, as usual.
That is, the Chamber of Commerce is going to be in charge of the "debates" between those running for the two seats on the City Commission in contention.
One candidate - Woody Brown, vying for the seat being left open with the departure of Gay Gentry - is tied in closely with the Chamber.
One question that has been asked for years goes this way - "Is the City of Largo an arm of the Chamber of Commerce or is the Chamber an arm of the city?"
This occurs because much Chamber business is conveyed through the resources of the city. Chamber events are noticed and advertised on the city web site. Taxpayers fund the membership fees of the mayor and commissioners as members of the Chamber.
Other private organizations are not given this privilege.
Curtis Holmes, Brown's opponent, suggests that whoever arranges "debates" change the format to something sensible, rather than what amounts to a press conference for each candidate.
Holmes proposes that questions from the public be collected in advance and when each of the candidates has her or his turn a question is scooped out of the fish bowl and an answer is sought.
The candidate would have, for example, a minute to answer and the opponent would have a 30-second rebuttal. This makes perfect sense.
Amazingly, Holmes' opponent has never been to a commission meeting, has no idea of any issues that may be on the minds of voters, and one wag has volunteered to show him the way to City Hall, a locale presumably unknown to him.
What is really outrageous in the eyes of veteran political observers is the role played by the county's only daily newspaper.
The Big Paper likes to set the agenda for all affairs in the county and likes to dominate and influence every municipal government.
The BP is owned by a non-tax paying entity but likes to determine how taxpayers money - the money taken from those who work for a living - is spent.
Candidates received last week a letter from the hicockalorums of the BP ordering them to immediately call a given number upon receipt of the letter so that an appointment for grilling could be set.
Accompanying the letter was a lengthy questionnaire that contains queries that federal law forbids employers asking prospective employees.
The questions are obviously designed to see if the candidate agrees with the BP's position on various issues.
Those who have followed events know what happens if anyone does not play along with the Big Paper. Ask Mary Laurence, Marty Shelby, Charlie Harper and others. The BP plays the politics of destruction.
Specifically, the BP wants to know who supports the outlay of taxpayer money to erect a statue to a man who had no connection to Largo and the pursuit of which is the hobby horse of one current member of the commission.
Also of interest to the paper, which carries very little news of Largo (Largonians depend on the Gazette to find out what is going on in their city), is whether the candidate is a sympathizer of the former city manager who wanted to dress up as a woman.
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