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Happytown: Bogus ballots in Palm Beach County, Dems name Rep. Scott Randolph to replace Earl K. Wood on the ballot

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Photo: , License: N/A

"Floridians are fired up to reelect President Obama," Florida Democratic spokesman Eric Jotkoff told the Miami Herald, referencing the success of the Obama for America "Vote Now!" campaign. Let's wait and see whether the Republicans will be as fired up about discrediting those votes as they were about limiting voting access. Bets?

In less disarming – but similarly confusing – Florida election news, last week's loss of Orange County Tax Collector Earl K. Wood at the age of 96 presented an unenviable quagmire for local Democrats. With just a couple weeks left until the Nov. 6 free-for-all, they could either surrender the oddly partisan seat or magically produce a fully vetted and financially capable alternative.

Well, it didn't take much magic. On October 17, the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee held a closed-door meeting to pick from its ranks a suitable replacement, and that replacement ended up being the group's chairman, outgoing state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando. Randolph, the Democratic ranking member on the House of Representatives Finance & Tax committee, is no stranger to number crunching and, because of his campaign history, he has some leftover funds at his disposal, certainly enough to cover the $9,000 filing fee and a lightning-round campaign. (Randolph's name will not appear on the ballot; a vote for Wood is essentially a vote for Randolph.)

"I was just getting calls from people, calls from the party, and really feeling like this was a seat that we really needed to hold onto," he says.

Why? Well, for one, says Randolph, the tax collector's office carries more weight than many suspect. As Republicans continue to make the voting process more difficult via voter identification policies, it's important to note that a lot of the drivers' license-issuance work is currently handled by the tax collector – "we want to make sure [the office] is not used to disenfranchise more people in Orange County." Also, his opponent, Republican Jim Huckeba, has floated the idea of handing the elected seat over to the county commission for appointment, which, according to Randolph (who is currently suing the county in representation of the earned-sick time initiative), is effectively handing the job to lobbyists who like to text a lot.

That didn't stop Huckeba from feigning horror at Randolph's decision. "It is wrong to have an opportunist simply using Earl's good name to get elected to what can easily become a lifetime cushy job, all at taxpayer expense," he said in an Oct. 18 statement, clearly not recognizing that he, too, had used Wood's name explicitly in his catastrophic "Where is Earl?" signage campaign launched the weekend before Wood's death. Nothing ever adds up, does it?

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