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In Florida, an Election Lively Enough to Match California's

The mayor of Key West beats the 'chicken lady' and other colorful candidates to keep job.

October 09, 2003|From Reuters

KEY WEST, Fla. — Mayor Jimmy Weekley, popular owner of grocery stores immortalized by singer Jimmy Buffett, has defeated a dive captain, a real estate agent, a homeless man and a woman who rescues chickens in the lively mayoral race to govern the wacky Florida Keys tourist town of Key West.

"It's fun. This is the town that raised me, and it's my way of giving back," said the Democratic Weekley, 56, a native Key Wester who spent about $21,000 in campaign funds to win his third two-year mayoral term. The job pays $10,500 annually.

"Thank God, we're not in California," he told supporters at an oyster bar victory party Tuesday night, referring to that state's gubernatorial recall election.

Weekley, a butcher and owner of two Fausto's Food Palace grocery stores, garnered 70% of about 4,100 votes cast in the town of 26,000 full-time residents.

Buffett, Weekley's friend, sang of "goin' down to Fausto's get some chocolate milk" in the song "My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don't Love Jesus."

The colorful mayor's race included candidates Katha Sheehan, a Libertarian known locally as the "chicken lady" because she rescues free-roaming chickens and roosters.

Sheehan campaigned with rooster pal Red Rover for a "simple lifestyle and simple rules" in a town where "we came here to party, to rub elbows with fishermen, servicemen and strippers."

She urged Key Westers to "be like Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams," both former residents.

Candidate Sloan Young Bashinsky voted for Weekley, despite his own platform of dressing up police officers in pirate costumes. A former lawyer and homeless advocate currently living in a shelter, he criticized "Yankees coming down like carpetbaggers. This place is a haven for dropouts and runaways. People come down here because it's so diverse and anything is accepted here. It's like no place on Earth."

On Tuesday, a dozen people who live aboard boats moored offshore but out of the city limits staged an election day Boston Tea Party-style protest, burning voter registration cards and dumping seaweed "tea" into local waters.

The protesters, dressed as American Indians, were excluded from voting in the election, despite paying monthly mooring fees to the city.

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