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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Kendrick Meek drawn into Vel Thompson flier flap




Kendrick Meek's U.S. Senate campaign was stunned to hear that St. Petersburg City Council candidate Vel Thompson has a campaign flier including a photo of her and Meek with this quote: "As a home-grown boy from St. Petersburg I hope you will vote for Vel to represent District 6 this November and vote for me for U.S. Senate next November."

It's a made up quote, said Ana Cruz, senior adviser to the Meek campaign.

"The picture and quote attributed in the mail piece did not come from the Meek campaign and is not authorized to be used in any campaign literature," Cruz said. "Congressman Meek did not say that to Vel Thomas or any representative of her campaign. Karl Nurse has endorsed Kendrick Meek's campaign for the U.S. Senate, and he's been helpful to us in our efforts here in the Tampa Bay area."

But when the Times called Thompson on Wednesday she said she did have permission to use the quote. She even referred the Times to a congressional aide who she said approved the quote.

"I would never use a quote without getting permission," Thompson said.

When the Times contacted that aide, campaign field organizer Tim Anderson, he said those kinds of decisions are made above his pay grade.

"I have no authority to give anyone permission to use anything," he said, and referred all questions back to Cruz.

So the Times contacted Cruz again. She wanted to smooth over the dispute while standing by her original assertion: the Meek campaign never gave Thompson the quote, or endorsed her for city council.

"I'm not certain where the confusion is with the Vel Thompson campaign," Cruz said. "We didn't authorize it, Tim didn't authorize it and I certainly didn't authorize it and it would have come across my desk.

"I also want to say this is nothing personal. We are not endorsing anyone in that race. Both Vel and Karl have been good friends of the campaign."

Cruz said she explained that to Thompson on Wednesday evening.

Thompson spoke to the Times one more time later Wednesday night after she took part in the candidate forum at Lakewood High School and had a representative join the call. That person, who would not identify herself, said they had an e-mail from Anderson giving the campaign permission to use the Meek quote.

However, the Thompson campaign said it would not provide that e-mail to the Times. They said the newspaper should get the e-mail from the Meek campaign, that the confusion was on their end.

And -- though the flier quotes Meek saying he hopes voters choose Thompson -- the candidate herself added this:

"That was not an endorsement," Thompson said, "and I did not ask for an endorsement."

One last thing: Meek is not a "home grown" product of St. Pete, as the flier said, but he was very close with his late uncle, St. Petersburg resident King Pittman, and has spent a lot of time in the Burg.

-Adam Smith and Jamal Thalji, Times staff writers

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:08pm]


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