Political fisticuffs

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By all accounts, the mayoral campaign between Orlando City Commissioner Bruce Gordy and Mayor Glenda Hood was one of the nastiest on record. Only now are we discovering exactly how nasty it had become.

A Washington Shores man has filed battery charges against Hood, claiming she grabbed his arm during a verbal exchange while both were campaigning near downtown on March 13, the day before Hood was re-elected.

Ezell Harris, 41, said Hood grabbed him and asked "who are you" and "what's your name" after he questioned her about a Hood campaign flier accusing Gordy of racism.

"Don't touch me," Harris, a Gordy supporter, remembers telling the mayor. "Don't ever touch me again."

Hood allegedly grabbed Harris after her husband, Charlie, who was campaigning across the street, ran to his wife's aid and stood nose-to-nose with Harris, saying Harris "couldn't talk to the mayor like that," according to a statement Harris gave to Orlando police.

Harris says the Hoods retreated to their car parked at a Wendy's restaurant near Orange Blossom Trail and West Colonial Drive until three police cars arrived. The Hoods and police left when a Channel 13 television van, alerted by a Wendy's employee, pulled up.

Harris says he never considered striking Glenda or Charlie Hood. "If I had put my hand on the mayor, `police` would have had my ass under the jail," he said.

Harris says he approached Glenda Hood because he wanted to ask her about a flier she distributed in Orlando's predominantly black neighborhoods a week before the election.

"When it comes to helping our community, Bruce Gordy stands alone -- AGAINST US!" the flier said.

The flyer contained several quotes from deceased former Commissioner Nap Ford accusing Gordy of racism, a quote from Daisy Lynum, who replaced Ford on the City Council, and a list of issues Gordy failed to vote on that allegedly would have benefited Orlando's black community.

Ford's racism charge was related to a March 1998 vote in which Gordy was the lone council member who opposed spending $55,000 to buy two run-down houses in the Parramore neighborhood. Vacant lots in Parramore sell for as little as $3,000.

Ford predicted city-built homes on the properties would sell by the summer of 1998. Two years later, those properties are still undeveloped.

Harris was so appalled by Hood's flier that he challenged Hood and Lynum at last week's council meeting to go public with their accusations against Gordy.

"Why don't you tell the people now if you feel he's racist?" Harris said. "Why don't you say it out loud?"

Both declined to respond.

Orlando police Sgt. Orlando Rolon said police are still investigating the incident between Harris and Hood.

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