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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Is Ken Hagan using Buddy Johnson tactics?



A potential political opponent of Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan is making hay of a flier Hagan is handing out to county residents. Hagan now represents northern Hillsborough on the commission. But he’s running for a countywide seat in 2010. His fliers are showing up in South Tampa.

One landed on the South Tampa door of City Council member Mary Mulhern, who is considering a run against Hagan in 2010. That prompted Mulhern’s husband, marketing consultant Cameron Dilley, to send out an e-mail to reporters questioning who paid for the fliers and suggesting that they’re campaign pieces masquerading as community outreach.

The e-mail subject line reads "Buddy-style Hagen (sic) Fliers - Who paid?” drawing a comparison to former Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson, who featured his own image prominently on voter education pieces paid for with federal grant money. Those pieces are now part of an FBI investigation of Johnson’s spending. Read the e-mail here (PDF).

Hagan’s fliers identify him as chairman of the County Commission, include the county logo and county services phone numbers and a tear-off card soliciting opinions on mass transit and budget cuts. He said his legislative aides, family and friends are handing out the doorhangers, and he cleared them with the county attorney.

Distributing the pieces countywide surely will help Hagan’s campaign. And if the piece was paid for with campaign money, presenting it as county business would be illegal.

But Hagan said he paid about $1,000 out of his own pocket for the fliers. He said he did a similar piece in 2003, and that was paid for with county money. He decided not to do that this time, he said.

“With the budget crisis we’re in, it wouldn’t be appropriate to use taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Hagan said the piece is “completely constituent service oriented.”

“It’s a shame that you can be criticized for doing constituent service,” he said.

Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:56am]


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