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Hillsborough's Jim Norman, Senate hopeful, under FBI investigation

In the past two weeks, both a lawsuit and an ethics complaint have alleged that the late businessman Ralph Hughes bankrolled an Arkansas home for Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman.

Norman wasn't talking Wednesday. But the St. Petersburg Timesasked him twice in July if he accepted money for the house from Hughes, who benefitted over the years from the county's pro-development decisions.

Norman said no. When asked if his wife, the sole owner of the home, received money from Hughes, he refused to answer.

"My wife and her business partners can have dealings with anyone they choose to," he said.

The FBI is now investigating the origin of the $435,000 used to buy the house.

On Aug. 24, Norman beat state Rep. Kevin Ambler in the Republican primary for the District 12 state Senate seat. He faces two write-in candidates in November for the seat representing north Hillsborough and central Pasco counties.

Ambler this week sued Norman and election officials, claiming Norman was not eligible to run because he didn't list on financial disclosure forms two boats that were included with the purchase of the Arkansas house. The suit also claims that Norman received a $435,000 loan from Hughes shortly before his wife bought the house.

-- Adam Smith

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