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State senator defends felon

TAMPA — Sen. Arthenia Joyner is no stranger to Laurise Thomas, a felon whose consulting company has secured more than $2 million in contracts from the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance to help the working poor.

The Tampa Democrat has sponsored legislation with Thomas' mother, a state lawmaker from Orlando. She hired Thomas' company, Strategywise, as a campaign consultant the same year Thomas completed her probation for fraud charges.

Between 2002 and 2006, Joyner's campaign paid Strategywise $56,203, campaign finance records show.

And despite recent news accounts that raise questions about Strategywise and its contract with the publicly funded Workforce Alliance, Joyner stands behind Thomas and continues to champion the program her company runs.

"I think it's a great program," she said this week.

More here.