Blair claims Beckner lied, vows legal action
Photo: Brian Blair and his wife Toni. [Michael C. Weimar | Times]
TAMPA -- Departing Hillsborough County commissioner Brian Blair accused his opponent in last week's elections of lying about him in campaign fliers and said he intends to pursue legal action against him.
Blair, a Republican, claimed today that Democrat Kevin Beckner falsely accused him of giving himself a pay raise, funneling taxpayer dollars to the cleanup of his private lake and supporting the Confederate flag.
In an unusual news conference at County Center ostensibly called to thank his supporters and tout his record, Blair told reporters he is weighing his legal options. Afterward, he said he is mulling whether to file a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission contending Beckner violated a law against lying on the stump that could result in his removal from office. During the news conference, he accused Beckner of libel and slander.
"We intend to find out where the line is and if he crossed it. through both the Elections Commission and an attorney," Blair said afterward. "I think it will be a good thing for Hillsborough County and future voters."
Beckner's claim that Blair gave himself a pay raise stemmed from Blair's objections to freezing his pay and lowering his $600 car allowance last year. Blair did vote to steer money toward a chain of lakes that includes one he shares with several neighbors, but the amount spent was less than Beckner claimed. Linking him to the Confederate flag was presumably based on Blair's support with other commissioners of awarding proclamations to a groups that celebrate their confederate heritage.
In a backhanded analogy explaining his interest in defining what's proper on the stump, Blair said of Beckner, who is gay, "Can I say that his boyfriend gave him AIDS? I don't know." He went on to say that is not true and that he wouldn't say that.
Beckner defeated Blair Nov. 4 by a 10-point margin. A handful of activists who caught wind of the news conference toted moving boxes, volunteering to assist Blair with his departure. Beckner will be sworn in next week. Some wore placards "Nobody likes a sore loser."
-- Bill Varian, Times Staff Writer