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Finding Their Place in the (Florida) Sun

Times Staff Writer

“Just moments ago, I spoke with George W. Bush and congratulated him on becoming the 43rd president of the United States, and I promised him that I wouldn’t call him back this time.” -- Vice President Al Gore, in his concession speech

The Florida Supreme Court, Appointed, with half an exception, by Democrats

The seven-member bench, one of whom was appointed by an outgoing Democratic governor and an incoming Republican, twice breathed life into a moribund Gore campaign. First, it extended a deadline for the inclusion of hand counts, then it ordered a manual recount of “undervotes,"ballots on which machines failed to record presidential votes. And twice the court was reversed -- or “spanked,” as at least one legal commentator put it -- by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State

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She seemed to alight at her podium directly from the planet Revlon. The heavily mascaraed 43-year-old citrus and cattle heiress, a co-chairwoman of Bush’s Florida campaign, was praised and vilified for declaring Bush the winner of Florida’s 25 electoral votes on Nov. 26. Floridians voted in 1998 to abolish her office. To some Democrats’ dismay, that won’t occur until 2002.

Marc Racicot, Governor of Montana

Little known and even harder to pronounce, this Big Sky-country name (it’s “roscoe”), was plucked by Bush to observe the Florida recounts and give good GOP quote. Articulate and possessed of a frighteningly large vocabulary considering he hails from a state known for its strong, silent types, Racicot denied his efforts were aimed at securing a cabinet post. Time will tell.

Lewis and Clark, Leon County Circuit Court Judges

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Terry Lewis and Nikki Ann Clark adjudicated several election-related legal forays. Along the way, the nation learned that Lewis is a quiet scholar and mystery writer who often takes the bench in street clothes, while Clark is a cool-headed former Democratic activist who may have had a beef with Florida Gov. Bush after he refused to promote her to a higher court.

Chad, Ballot confetti

Dimpled, pregnant, hanging or, as some news reports had it, ingested (by a Florida vote canvasser), this versatile word once stood for an obscure third-world nation and half of a famous Sixties pop duo. It derives from a Scottish term for a small bit of gravel and is now an emblem of the deep and dangling dysfunction of the punch-card voting system. It is also the latest inspiration for a pair of cuff links.

Signs of the Times, Protesters

Inevitably, the political tension was relieved the way Americans relieve political tension best: by sending out dumb e-mail jokes or dressing up in weird costumes and screaming at each other while being eyed warily by police officers. Bush supporters held mock “Gore/Lieberman"signs that read “Sore/Loserman.” Gore supporters circulated a list of possible bumper stickers, including “Spending: $184,000,000. Having your little brother rig the election for you: Priceless.”

Theresa LePore, Palm Beach County’s supervisor of elections

LePore, a 19-year civil servant, devised the now infamous “butterfly ballot.” Many Gore supporters claimed it led them to vote accidentally for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan. LePore, a Democrat, had meant the ballot design to be helpful to her county’s large senior population. Instead, she gave the county a headache.

The Ryder truck, aka “The Chad Chariot” “You want some ballots up here, well bring ‘em,” said Leon County Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls. Thus, a 1999 Ford F350 became part of the story, traveling between West Palm Beach and Tallahassee with 462,000 ballots. The truck was auctioned to benefit the American Red Cross. “A piece of history,” declared a Ryder spokeswoman of the flaming yellow truck. Maybe for some. For others, proof that the weirdo torch has passed from California to Florida.

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Electoral College Sportswear

The election confusion was a boon for Electoral College Sportswear & Accessories, a tiny, six-year-old business founded by University of Maine director of public affairs John Diamond, and his wife, Marcia, a middle-school English teacher. They’ve sold 10,000 “Electoral College” sweats, T-shirts and hats so far. Their “Electoral College” motto: vis in numeris (strength in numbers).


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