You know what’s fun? Having your head dipped in a chocolate fountain with strawberries up your nose. You know what isn’t? National politics played out by local politicians in a law-office boardroom with no chocolate or strawberries in sight.

Still, the five Democratic candidates vying for Ric Keller’s District 8 congressional seat did their best to come off as pleasant when they all met up July 23 for the Orange County Young Democrats candidate forum at the Gray Robinson law office downtown.

Scott Maxwell emceed the proceedings, coming off, as usual, like a lovable Darren Stevens caught in a bewitching conundrum. (“I’m going to get to use my favorite new phrase,” he snarked. “‘Time horizon.’”) And while we haven’t yet established which wonk we want for the Aug. 28 primary (expanded coverage is forthcoming), we were able to get a taste of what it is each of the hopefuls has to offer, presented here in alphabetical order.

Alexander Fry – the self-proclaimed “dark horse” candidate – is hilarious, spinning his outsider status into quippery. “Welcome to another episode of four losers and one winner,” he charmed, before referring to second-trimester abortions as “icky and creepy.”

Alan Grayson is super-double-qualified, if he does say so himself. Asked why he’s right for the job, he dryly responded that, unlike his peers, he knew how to find the office. (He works against war profiteers in D.C., see.) He also elicited the most vocal response, largely from his Grayson T-shirt–wearing base, who were abundantly present.

Mike Smith is a political pinup your mother could vote for, except his mother probably won’t vote for him because he survived a family of “staunch Republicans.” “With all due respect,” he brushed off the experience of Charlie Stuart and Grayson, “I haven’t lost yet.” Zing!

Speaking of Stuart, he doesn’t want to make a point this time; he wants to make a difference. Also, “what we’re doing here is not fun and it’s not meant to be funny.” Indeed.

And finally, Quoc Van – who opted to wear a T-shirt to this event, because he’s a weight-lifter, pussy – is incredibly earnest. So much so that every time he was called upon, he walked out to the front of the table to address the audience, arms a-flailin’. Plus, he thinks you’re tired of “good ol’ boys” like Stuart and Grayson, and that experience is what’s killing us. Can’t we all just get along? Um, no.

Speaking of fun with politics, right on schedule things are starting to heat up behind the scenes of the race to replace Kevin Beary in the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Seems that Edgewood Police Chief John Tegg – the front-running Republican candidate with the police union endorsement – may be in some hot water with the feds over the nature of his campaigning.

You’ll recall that Tegg was supposed to be the anti-corruption force cleaning up after former Edgewood chief of police Clarence Bass. Well, somebody anonymous (who surely has nothing to do with a rival campaign) contacted us last week to let us know that Tegg is the subject of a federal investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Council for violations of the Hatch Act, a little piece of legislation from 1939 intended to keep federal employees from running in partisan races.

Now, Tegg isn’t exactly a federal employee, but as police chief he does oversee programs financed by federal grants and loans. In fact, sometimes police chiefs buy uniforms and cars with D.C. dollars. Our source points out that those very uniforms and those very cars are being used as props in some of Tegg’s literature, commercials and public appearances. One click over to YouTube and you can see for yourself: dramatized police acting next to a police car, monogrammed police shirts, uniforms and, um, a barbecue grill!

Stockton Reeves, a paid consultant for the Tegg campaign, finds the whole anonymous finger-pointing game to be suspicious. He claims that the Hatch Act would only apply if Tegg reaped personal benefits from federal grant funds. According to Reeves, Tegg’s received a vehicle, a bulletproof vest and an emergency generator for the office from federal grants, and he uses none of them.

“Under those conditions I don’t think he falls under the Hatch Act,” says Reeves.

Reeves says that Tegg is going to have to resign from his police chief position soon anyway, which is one of his two options (the other being ending his candidacy). Reeves wants him out full-time in the field.

Hey, guess who’s coming to town this weekend? The POTUS, that’s who. No, not the evil, dumb bastard currently occupying the White House; we mean the next POTUS.

Both John “Old Fart” McCain and Barack “Hopey” Obama are slated to be spending some quality time in our fair city this weekend as guests of the 2008 National Urban League Conference at the Orlando World Center Marriott, 8701 World Center Drive. The old dude is scheduled to hobble onstage Aug. 1 at 11 a.m., right before his afternoon nap. The guy with the scary name goes on Aug. 2 at 2 p.m.

You can buy day passes for the conference for $35, then hope they cover the George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic show Friday at 9 p.m. If not, skip the speeches and rock out with Clinton: You’ll have more fun.

Red-light runners beware: Big Buddy is watching.

Orlando’s newest and most innovative method of padding its coffers comes with a thin skin of public safety to make it all nicey-nice. Red-light cameras were announced at seven intersections July 23, and they’ll be in operation by Sept. 1. Running a red light at those intersections will cost you $125 the first time, $250 every time thereafter. But it’s a civil infraction, so you won’t get points assessed against your license. All you’ll do is make the city richer. Because they are very worried about your safety.

Intersections announced July 23 are Conroy at Vineland, Michigan Street at Dixie Bell Drive, Lee Vista Boulevard at Goldenrod Road, Westmoreland Drive at South Street, Turkey Lake Road at Wallace Road, Kaley Street at Division Avenue and Magnolia Avenue at Concord Street. Our suggestion: Obey the law and deny the city even one thin dime of your cash.

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