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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rashid dumps more money into anti-Sharpe, anti-transportation tax ads

24

August

Businessman Sam Rashid has already spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting the re-election of Republican County Commissioner Mark Sharpe because Sharpe supports a 1 cent sales tax to pay for road improvements, expanded bus service and light rail. Much of that money has gone to back Josh Burgin, who is challenging Sharpe in today's Republican primary. But Rashid also recently donated more than $11,000 to the group NoTaxForTracks.com, a group formed to fight the sales tax referendum in November. His contribution accounts for about 79 percent of the group's fundraising total so far.

NoTax used the money to buy television time for advertisements attacking Sharpe that have run on CNN and ESPN. The ad includes Sharpe's cell phone number. It also includes at least one significant error, stating that the proposed rail line for Hillsborough County won't reach Tampa International Airport for 40 years. That's simply not true. Assuming voters approve the tax in November, original plans called for construction of rail stations at TIA by 2027. Transportation officials are considering fast-tracking that time line. When the error was pointed out to Rashid, he said, he didn't care. "If there's a glaring error, there's a glaring error," he said. Bottom line, Rashid said, rail supporters still don't know exactly where the lines will go and there's no way to know for sure when trains will reach the airport. Rashid said he gsve the money to NoTaxForTracks.com because "it's a catchy name" and he wants to contribute to any group going up against the Moving Hillsborough Forward behemoth that has raised more than $1 million to advocate for the tax.

Sharpe said he saw the ad last night and was stunned to see his cell phone number in it. He said he hasn't received any calls in response to the spot. But he did get two calls on his cell a few weeks ago from people who said they got the number from an advertisement. One person, he said, apologized for calling his cell. The other person ended the conversation by saying he would vote for Sharpe.

Janet Zink, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 3:41pm]

    

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