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Thursday, Mar 30, 2017
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Negative campaigns roll out of control in District 13

So, if you are to believe the candidates, they have either lost control of or never did have control over their own campaigns.

Tonight you can see the third and apparently last debate among the three contenders who want to take the District 13 congressional seat in Pinellas County vacated by the passing of Bill Young. Although it's only scheduled for 30 minutes, it is likely going to be the most fact-filled of the sessions because WEDU's Rob Lorei is the one asking the questions and he is not one of those more interested in hearing himself speak than in getting answers.

Already a key race around here, the special election has become an event of national interest and more importantly, national money. Like the “I-4 corridor” theory of our importance, this race is being pushed as a bellwether for the elections later this year.

The numbers I saw the other day added up to close to $10 million, mostly from out of town. It is an astonishing amount of money until you hear that expectations are for more than $200 million to be spent on the gubernatorial race in Florida, where it is going to take at least that much to make either candidate look appealing.

What should be more disturbing to local voters was the admission a few days ago by both candidates — Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly — that they didn't like negative campaigning but either had no control or could do nothing to stop it.

Oh, that's great. We're counting on the winner of this thing to be able to make global decisions involving war and peace or figuring out how to get half the country off food stamps and they can't control their own campaigns?

You had to feel sorry, if you watched this thing, for Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby, who can't afford his own ads and doesn't have some PAC or chamber of commerce out there trashing his two opponents.

He may not have the experience of the other two and certainly has nowhere near the 36 percent rating one of his boosters promised me, but at least he is also not at the bottom end of the money puppeteers' strings either. I hope he comes back.

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If I were a candidate, I would hire the mother of the Girl Scout across the street from us. The two of them showed up at our door a few weeks ago. The mom stood there beaming and saying her daughter had done something wonderful in school. Just before I closed the door after saying how proud I was to have her on the block, she whipped out the order form for Girl Scout cookies.

Unfortunately, the Frau wasn't home and I could only guess at her favorites, so I ordered some of each and a couple of boxes of Do-si-dos.

The cookies showed up a few days ago and I don't want to complain to the Girl Scouts you understand, but somebody shrunk the size of my Do-si-dos. I tried to compensate by eating more of them, but now they're gone for another year.

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Finally, the other big story this week was the news that we are being invaded by a new strange critter called the tegu. There have been more than 100 sightings in an area southeast of Riverview of this lizard that can reach upwards of 4 feet in length. In fact, one expert says that frequently they are mistaken for alligators. I won't make that mistake. In a state that is already overloaded with everything from pythons to giant poisonous toads, hissing roaches and even the mysterious skunk ape, I suppose one more reason to not go camping won't hurt.