What the f*@&?

The Top 10 mystifying political moments of 2006

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File them under "WTF?" for their power to have even the most hardcore politicos shaking their heads in abject disbelief. Florida politics in 2006 was no exception to the rule, delivering moments of stunning, well, stunningness.

Here are the Top 10 WTF? political snapshots from the past 12 months:

1. Doug Belden "pets the dog"

Yes, I can see how it would be a surefire pickup line: "Hey, baby, ever make it with the tax man?" But in October, a drunken Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden may have tried it out on one too many women, as a 38-year-old complained to police that Belden fondled her breasts during an encounter at a Harbour Island nightspot. Belden initially denied the grope, saying he only tried to pet the woman's lap dog, but he later apologized and acknowledged a drinking problem.

2. Katherine Harris not allowed on stage with the president

OK, so what that she launched her campaign by shaking her boobies suggestively on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes last year. Was that any reason for the GOP powers-that-be to exclude their nominee for the U.S. Senate, Katherine Harris, from her rightful place alongside Dubya on a stage in Pensacola? Or to hustle her backstage before the president came out? Well, yes.

3. Rod Smith and his helicopter

The Democats' most charismatic gubernatorial candidate in quite some time was leading a charmed life early in the campaign. The activists loved his sense of humor and down-home speaking style. The newspapers had started writing stories about how he could beat frontrunner Jim Davis. He'd pulled alongside Davis in fundraising. And then he released "The Helicopter Ad." Almost in mockumentary style, Smith was shown running up to a group of "reporters" on an airport tarmac after having just gotten out of a small helicopter, yelling his platform over the whirling blades in an attempt to show his statewide concern for insurance issues. Smith lost.

4. Kim Berfield attacks Charlie Justice for coddling pedophiles

In Tampa Bay's most contentious campaign, for the Florida Senate, Republican Kim Berfield had already tried to tag her Democratic opponent, Charlie Justice, as a pawn of the insurance industry. Never mind that she took scads more money from Big Insurance and was chairwoman of the House Insurance Committee that generally did its bidding. But the more amazing attack came late in the campaign when ads aired on her behalf claimed that Justice, a father of two, was "putting our children in harm's way." Based on what? On his votes against the state budget and Republican versions of crime and schools legislation that contained other provisions that he objected to. That proved enough for voters fed up with negative campaigning. Berfield lost.

5. Angelo Cappelli attacks Bill Heller as a "Nutty Professor"

Democrat Bill Heller is a beloved institution in St. Petersburg, the kind of longtime civic leader and USF St. Pete prof that folks in both parties love. So it didn't exactly ring quite true when his Republican opponent for the Florida House, Angelo Cappelli, attacked him as a "nutty professor" who advocated tax increases. Cappelli lost.

6. Mark Foley makes us horny

Here is just one of many juicy exchanges between Mark Foley and a congressional page that surfaced in the wake of the scandal that drove him from office:

Foley: what makes me attractive to you

Page: i like stylish, elite type ppl

Foley: good

Page: the type of person that ill strive to be later on

Foley: so i am stylish

Page: i'd say so

Foley: i want to help you become that person

Page: thats cool

Foley: very successful

Foley: and very confident

Page: im hoping

Page: well i'm confident

Page: now i just have to get the successful thing down

Foley: and we will make you successful

Page: good good

Foley: as long as you don't mind me grabbing your dick once in a while

7. Max Linn makes an emergency landing

The overly energetic third-party candidate for governor likely made his biggest headlines of the campaign season when the small plane he flew himself around the state developed engine problems and forced him to make an emergency landing on the ever-busy I-4 in Orlando.

8. Ed Helm "unifies" the Pinellas Democratic Party

Elected chairman in the spring, failed mayor candidate Ed Helm promised to work with all Democrats, as long as they wanted to win. He then worked behind the scenes to back one slate of Democrats over another in the primaries, and his wife headed a PAC that funded some of the intra-party melee. He was unelected as chairman in December.

9. Katherine Harris goes through staff like a porno star goes through edible panties

One can only imagine what it must have been like to work for her.

10. The Undervote: More than 18,000 people cast ballots but skip the Jennings-Buchanan Congressional race

We'll never know if those 18,000 wanted to vote, or how they would have voted. All we know now is there's a lawsuit trying to reverse the election, and we've probably seen the end of touch-screen voting without paper trails.

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