But Seriously, Folks ...

The Planet's picks in key 2006 primary races around Tampa Bay.

Democrats

Governor — Jim Davis
This is a tough call. Challenger Rod Smith has winning charisma, but Jim Davis has a serious record of constant advocacy for schoolchildren and Florida's environment. A solidly smart governor is what this state needs, not a rock star.

Attorney General — Skip Campbell
He doesn't have a strong opponent in the primary, but it is just enough to get him ready to beat two-time statewide loser Bill McCollum in November.

U.S. Congress District 11 — Kathy Castor
Yes, you can say that Kathy Castor didn't do much in her first two years on the County Commission, but she's come alive since then as a passionate advocate against the hare-brained schemes and mean-spirited slapdowns the Republican majority come up with.

Florida House of Representatives District 52 — Bill Heller
The man who helped build USF St. Pete into the nearly stand-alone campus it is today would bring a needed perspective on education to the Capitol.

Florida House of Representatives District 53 — Rick Kriseman
He's not done a bad job on the St. Petersburg City Council, complaints from the anti-Sembler neighborhood notwithstanding. But Kriseman represents a pragmatic wing of the local Democratic Party, a viewpoint he'll need in the Republican-dominated legislature. He shouldn't have a problem beating Republican Thomas Piccolo.

Florida House of Representatives District 59 — Betty Reed
This retired educator will represent her inner-city district better than most of her predecessors, we suspect. She's also better than the GOP's candidate, Willis "K.C." Bowick.

Pinellas County Commission District 2 — Calvin Harris
Challenger Norm Roche chose this intraparty fight, and for what reason? Because Harris has supported Republicans like St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker? Harris is the first African American elected to the county commission, and his record is substantial precisely because he works with the myriad Republicans who hold almost every office in Pinellas.

Hillsborough County Commission District 3 — Chloe Coney
Her accomplishments in East Tampa may be overhyped, but Chloe Coney clearly cares about her community.

Republicans

Governor — Charlie Crist
Florida's attorney general is everything in a Republican that Jeb Bush is not: open-minded, compassionate and non-vindictive. His opponent, Tom Gallagher, is a hack and an embarrassment.

Chief Financial Officer — Tom Lee
He's been a maverick and bucked his own party. Just what we need on the Cabinet. He'd face the more than capable Democrat, Alex Sink.

U.S. Senator — LeRoy Collins Jr.
However tempted we were to endorse Katherine Harris, just for the news value alone and to ensure eventual victory for Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, we had to choose LeRoy Collins Jr. instead. He is a career Navy man, a retired admiral, who comes from good political stock as the son of one of Florida's best governors.

U.S. Congress District 9 — Gus Bilirakis
He's stood up at times to Gov. Bush's ill-conceived reforms, and his opponent in the primary is on the far right of the political spectrum. Easy call. Phylllis Busanksy will be the Democratic challenger.

Florida Senate District 10 — Sandy Murman
While her main opponent, Ronda Storms, has talked about family values, Murman has actually done something about them, devoting her career in the Florida House to passing legislation to help children and working to reform the troubled Department of Children and Families. Stephen Gorham, a Democrat, faces the winner.

Florida Senate District 16 — Kim Berfield
A no-brainer in the primary; Kim Berfield is light years better than her ethically challenged opponent, Frank Farkas, despite her ties to the insurance industry. Charlie Justice, a Democrat, is a better option in the general.

Florida House of Representatives District 52 — Angelo Cappelli
He's 36, a Yale and Fordham Law graduate, native of St. Pete and a fast-rising star in the party.

Hillsborough County Commission District 1 — Rose Ferlita
Ferlita is the rare Republican candidate who has shown real compassion, vs. other GOP officials who merely pay it lip service. Mary Mulhern offers the Democratic alternative in November.

For voting locations, go to www.votepinellas.com or www.votehillsborough.org.

Disclosures: Wayne Garcia and David Warner, the Weekly Planet editorial staff members who created the Planeteer, have ties to some of the candidates in this year's elections. As a political consultant from 1996-2004, Garcia represented Rose Ferlita, Calvin Harris, Sandy Murman and Tom Lee. He ran races against Jim Davis, Kim Berfield, Frank Farkas, Ronda Storms, Les Miller and Kathy Castor. Planet editor Warner's partner, Larry Biddle, worked in the Betty Castor campaign and presently does fundraising for Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate for Chief Financial Officer.

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