Orange County's longtime tax collector, Earl K. Wood, died early this morning.
We wrote recentlyabout the fact that the 96-year-old, who has been in office for five decades, was going to run for office again (though some say he didn't really intend to do so – he just happened to miss the withdrawal deadline to pull his name from the ballot). We called Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles this morning to find out whether Wood's name would still appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, but his office had yet to be officially notified about Wood's passing. Possibilities raised by the Orlando Sentinel in a story today include allowing Wood's name to appear on the ballot or giving the Democratic party a brief window in which to select someone to take his place.
Wood's opponent, Republican Jim Huckeba, was just about to launch a fairly aggro publicity campaign against Wood this morning. Called, "Where is Earl?" it was going to attack the incumbent for allegedly not fulfilling the duties of the office he's held since 1964.
"The Where Is Earl campaign features an internet blitz, Facebook page, t-shirts, yard signs and even an aerial banner flying over the streets of Orange County, all asking the simple question 'Where Is Earl?' Make sure to watch the Where is Earl video and the video about the technology issues one recent morning," a press release, sent at 7:45 a.m. noted.
But at 9:24 a.m., the campaign followed up with a message of condolence to Wood's family.
"We received word this morning that Earl K. Wood has passed away. We applaud him for his decades of service to this community and have suspended our campaign temporarily to give his family, his staff and our community time to grieve," Huckeba said in the statement. "Our deepest condolences are for Mr. Wood's family and friends at this time."