To Paulson, it appeared Aden, a former county GOP chairman who used to run the fair campaign committee, hoped to handpick Paulson's replacement.
"A fairly steamy meeting" ensued last July, during which Paulson urged committee members to defend the integrity of their organization. "If we're an organization that touts fair campaign practices, this to me seems to be an example of an unfair tactic," said Paulson.
Paulson stepped aside for four months while Fay Law assumed his duties. Law led the committee to draft its first set of bylaws, which Paulson says went a long way toward easing the concerns of GOP leaders about the committee.
"It was very good for the organization in many respects," Paulson said of the committee's accomplishments during his exile. "I always try to find the diamond in the pile of shit."
With Aden neutralized, Paulson returned in January to serve out his chairmanship. Aden couldn't be contacted for comment.
Despite the Aden coup attempt, committee Treasurer Wallace Witham predicted the Citizens for Fair Campaign Practices will live to see another election after this year's.
Paulson said the new bylaws should discourage takeover plots by committee members.
The bylaws and the exit of Aden are two of the reasons Bedinghaus says he came around. "I'm giving them the benefit," he said.
Witham helped organize the committee back in 1994. "I think the committee is a permanent fixture in Pinellas County," Witham said recently. "There were times early on when it wasn't so obvious that was going to be the case."
Contact News Editor Francis X. Gilpin at 813-248-8888, ext. 130, or [email protected].