“I’m surprised that people are finally talking about this race for the first time in 40 years.” – State Attorney Candidate and Casey Anthony Prosecutor Jeff Ashton
“Life is good,” “The old fox got foxed.”- Former OC Mayor Rich Crotty on Earl K. Wood after declining Tax Collector run
Those are two of the biggest political quotes of the year and they’ll probably end up on the “Best of” at the end of the year. However, they’re not from the high profile races you would expect. No Washington influences or major tv ad buys here.
Just controversial back stories, circus like tactics, and a genuine dislike among political rivals. The sharpest axes are coming out in the dullest races.
Take the Orange-Osceola County State Attorney race which features longtime incumbent Lawson Lamar, Casey Anthony Prosecutor Jeff Ashton, and the lesser known but equally bitter prosecutor, Ryan Williams.
The race had a very personal tone from the first press conference on a frosty January morning, where Ashton announced his candidacy and came out swinging, and it wasn’t the handling of the Anthony trial at the top of Ashton’s list of Lawson fails. It was office efficiency and internet access.
It didn’t matter. It became the “Casey Anthony Race” anyways and having Rob Lowe play you in a movie doesn’t help direct the political conversation.
Still, such a severe challenge from inside of Lamar’s office could not be ignored. There were dueling press conferences in front of the County Courthouse, harsh words exchanged in the press and during debates, and the two are currently criss crossing on the local public affairs talk show circuit.
Not to be ignored, Ryan Willams threw the Cady Way murders of two young high school students at Lamar’s feet, at his own well attended press conference.
Ashton might have been surprised at the attention, but Central Florida isn’t. With two of the highest profile recent crime stories in play, the finger pointing will continue until the winner is declared.
Unfortunately, the Orange County Tax Collector race is a much more ridiculous affair. Unlike the serious tone of the “Casey Anthony Race” this contest has Reality TV written all over it.
Call it “Bored Politicians of Orange County”
This silly game of Poltical Chicken began when the 95 year longtime Tax Collector Earl K. Wood announced he would leave his office and endorse his assistant.
Rich Crotty thought the position and it’s six figure salary sounded pretty good. His name ID would allow him to walk into the office.
Not so fast! Wood announced that he would seek the office if Crotty ran because apparently the two don’t like each other.
Two of the most seasoned lawmakers in the history of the County, daring each other to lick the frozen Flag Pole.
Crotty psyched out Wood, Wood’s assistant couldn’t jump back in the race and while the drama was unfolding in the Orange County Supervisor Elections office, the former top official of Orange County was half a block away, with a grin he could barely contain after he pulled the rope-a-dope on a 95 year old man that had no knowledge of what was going on.
And why should he? Wood (your boy) doesn’t come to work very often.
If this craziness did anything, it reinvigorated a field that looks to give Wood the retirement he was eyeing, before his political grudge got the better of him.
Normally these races would be afterthoughts in an election cycle that might see the Sunshine State pick a President.
It’s a reminder of how personal politics can be and how national stories can infiltrate a local race.