BOTH CHAIRS OF POLITICAL PARTIES MEET IN PINELLAS by Roxanne Escobales

11/01/06

Today the heads of both major political parties in Pinellas County met to set out reasons why their respective sides will win Tuesday’s election. Depending on who spoke, the Democrats will either lose because they are a bunch of negative whiners. Or they deserve to win because the GOP majority of the past decade has brought imbalance to American democracy.

The chair of the Republican party of Pinellas County, Tony DiMatteo, revealed the secret to the GOP’s success and the weakness of the Democrats.

ACT:

The chair of the Democratic party of Pinellas County, Ed Helm, said a victory for Democrats is vital to the government envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

ACT:

There’s a sea of difference between DiMatteo and Helm’s styles. DiMatteo, originally from Queens who now lives in Seminole, speaks with confidence that borders on brashness. Here he responds to comments by Helm about the need to be energy efficient.

ACT:

Where DiMatteo uses slang to bolster his party’s message, Helm uses academics. The chair of the Pinellas County Democrates started his speech with a Mark Twain quote and then later turned to the history of American politics to answer a question from the floor about whether he is a progressive or a liberal. He answered that most people are liberals.

ACT:

So is Ed Helms a progressive or a liberal?

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Both men got challenged by audience members for their behaviour during the primary election. Democratic candidate for the Pinellas County Commission Len Dramesi asked DiMatteo why he personally telephoned Dramesi to try and discourage him from running against Republican John Morroni for the county’s district 6 seat. DiMatteo said it’s in his job description.

ACT:

Ed Helm’s challenge came from the chair of the Pinellas County Commission, Ken Welch. Welch asked him if Helm was wrong to question Democratic commissioner Calvin Harris if he was a real Democrat at an earlier Tiger Bay club meeting during the primaries. Last year Harris endorsed Republican Rick Baker for St Petersburg mayor.

ACT:

In Pinellas County, Republican voters outnumber Democrats by five thousand. Both parties are in the final throes of mobilizing voters, with the G-O-P’s famous 72 hour program nearing its start. Tony DiMatteo gives little away about the tightly strategized last-minute push.

ACT:

While Ed Helm doesn’t claim to have a 72 hour strategy, he says the Democratic party in Pinellas greatly shaped up its mobilizing efforts since 2004. 35-thousand targeted voters will receive a mailer listing all the democratic candidates. The party has also rented radio time on AM radio over the past five weeks.

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