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The price of a country seat

What was Mary Johnson thinking? Having declared herself to be the Democratic alternative in the race for the Orange County chairman, Johnson, the District 3 county commissioner, prepared a platform of issues she planned to debate with Republicans Mel Martinez and John Ostalkiewicz.

Martinez and Ostalkiewicz had lined up powerful supporters and amassed war chests of about $500,000 each -- in the case of Ostalkiewicz, by tapping his own personal fortune. Johnson wanted to talk about transportation, growth, environment and budget issues, but the power brokers would just as soon such talk stayed out of public view. And so Johnson found herself a candidate without the powerful, deep-pocketed supporters it apparently takes to win a county seat

"We need an election, not an auction," she said in announcing on July 2 that she was dropping of the race.

Let the bidding begin.