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    State House Candidates Try to Lure Voters to Run Offs

    BY George Bennett
    09/30/2000
    by George Bennett on 9/30/00.

    It will come down to a few die-hard voters.

    In three closely fought state House races in Palm Beach and Martin counties, the candidates who do the best job of fishing votes from a sea of indifference Tuesday will win all-but-guaranteed tickets to Tallahassee.

    Democrats in state House districts 88 and 89 in southern Palm Beach County and Republicans in House District 82 in Martin and northern Palm Beach counties will go to the polls for runoff elections, which are held when no candidate wins a majority in a primary.

    Two of the three races involve incumbents, both of whom trailed in the Sept. 5 primaries.

    Because turnout is usually low for runoffs, candidates have been trying to target their appeals to those hardy political souls with a history of voting in recent elections.

    But many of those prime voters will be off limits this weekend because of the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashana.

    The two Democratic runoffs are in districts with large Jewish populations, and three of the four candidates are Jewish, so candidates are limiting their get-out-the-vote efforts over the critical final weekend of the campaign.

    The observance of the Jewish new year began at sundown Friday and ends at sundown today for Reform Jews and at sundown Sunday for Conservative and Orthodox Jews.

    In District 89, incumbent Rep. Curt Levine, D-Boca Raton, and challenger Irving Slosberg, both of whom are Jewish, say they won't campaign today and Sunday. Levine said some of his union supporters plan to contact voters over the weekend, but would avoid heavily Jewish areas.

    Slosberg edged Levine 38.6 percent to 38.2 percent in the primary. The winner of the Levine-Slosberg runoff faces only a write-in challenger in the Nov. 7 general election.

    In District 88, the winner of the Anne Gannon-Barry Silver runoff also faces no Republican opposition in the general election. Independent Stan Smilan is on the November ballot, and write-in Victoria Snyder is also a candidate.

    Silver, a former state Representative, topped a five-candidate field in the primary with 37.4 percent while Gannon had 26.1 percent.

    Silver, a Reform Jew, planned to co-officiate Rosh Hashana services Friday night and today with his father, Rabbi Samuel Silver, in Boynton Beach. Silver said he'd lay off campaigning today, but would attend a coffee gathering Sunday evening.

    Gannon, who is Catholic, wouldn't divulge specific campaign plans. But, her campaign manager Jessie Burchfield said, "We plan on keeping it low-key and respecting people who are observing the holiday."

    Gannon's campaign has sent five mailings over the past week targeted to frequent voters.

    The District 82 runoff pits Rep. Art Argenio, R-Hobe Sound, against attorney Joe Negron in a rematch of their bitter 1999 special election runoff. That winner faces only write-in opposition in November. Both candidates plan to knock on the doors of Republicans who voted in the primary. Negron got 41.2 percent in that race and Argenio 39.1 percent.

    All three runoffs have had their share of sniping.

    In both Democratic races, candidates and their supporters have filed ethics complaints against their rivals. Slosberg and Gannon have ridiculed their foes as ineffective in Tallahassee and have reminded voters of their rivals' traffic tickets. Silver has called Gannon a Republican sympathizer and debate-dodger. Levine has accused Slosberg of trying to buy the election by giving burlap "schlepper bags" and sandwiches to voters.

    Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore has asked for extra sheriff's deputies to patrol the Kings Point and Century Village polling places Tuesday. LePore sent letters to the four Democrats this week citing "a tremendous number of complaints" about campaigning during the Sept. 5 primary and in the following weeks. LePore's letter warns against campaigning within 50 feet of polls on Tuesday and reminds campaigners "not to harass, intimidate or otherwise interfere with the voting process."

    After all the nastiness, observers expect Rosh Hashana to bring about a cease-fire in the District 88 and 89 races.

    "It would be very inappropriate to do campaigning on Saturday, particularly. In my opinion, it would be inappropriate Saturday and Sunday," said Rabbi Alan Sherman, the executive vice president of the Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis.

    "It's like a rain delay" said Andre Fladell, a Delray Beach activist who has helped Levine's campaign. Once the sun goes down Sunday, Fladell said, the furious campaigning will resume.

    "Sunday night is fair game," Fladell said.

    LePore said she expects less than 15 percent turnout in the runoffs.

    Negron and Argenio faced off less than a year ago in a special election runoff for the District 82 seat. Negron had finished first in the primary with 47.5 percent to Argenio's 30.5 percent. But Argenio, helped by ads from Citizens for a Sound Economy attacking Negron for being a trial lawyer, came back to win the runoff with 51.6 percent.

    Argenio has continued the theme this year, mailing voters a brochure that calls Negron a "pro-lawyer" candidate who "tries to get criminals off on technicalities." Negron has responded with a mailer calling Argenio "Negative Art" and telling voters to "expect nasty, hateful mail from the Argenio campaign."

    Staff writer Matthew Doig contributed to this story.

    george_bennett@pbpost.com

    Three races in Tuesday's runoff

    Only voters in these House districts can cast ballots.

    STATE HOUSE, District 82

    Art Argenio

    Joe Negron

    STATE HOUSE, District 88

    Anne M. Gannon

    Barry Silver

    STATE HOUSE, District 89

    Curt Levine

    Irving Slosberg

    NOTES:
    Did not run MSL.