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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Turner, Storms go out swinging in final days of Hillsborough appraiser primary



Incumbent Rob Turner and challenger and state Sen. Ronda Storms hit hard in fliers that landed in mailboxes for the final weekend leading up to Tuesday's Republican primary for Hillsborough County Property Appraiser.

Turner, who didn't take fund-raising seriously until it was too late as he became embroiled in a porn scandal, sent out a low-budget piece -- thin-stock, colored paper without color images -- with an unflattering photo of Storms. It claims Storms, who bills herself as a fiscal and social conservative, is "no fiscal conservative."

As evidence, it claims Storms presided over property tax increases ranging from just under 8 percent one year to more than 32 percent in 2004 while serving as a Hillsborough County commissioner. Separately, it says the tax burdgen for Hillsborough property owners grew 106 percent during her eight-year tenure on the board, which ended in 2006. The mailer also says she voted for the construction of new appelate courthouse in Tallahassee dubbed the "Taj Mahal" because of its opulence.

PolitiFact Florida is taking a look at that last claim and should publish soon. As for the first two, the Buzz can't immediately vouch for the specific percentages Turner uses. but the Tampa Bay Times examined the issue in question in some depth in 2007 and in 2009.

For years, Hillsborough commissioners have bragged about cutting taxes for consecutive years on end (2013 will be the 20th year, if commissioners approve a budget proposal for next year.). That assertion is based on votes to cut the tax rate. However, the modest rate cuts approved did little to offset sharply rising values of property during the early 2000s.

In fact, the Times story in 2007 showed that government spending rose 116 percent in Hillsborough County dating from 2000 to when the story ran. And the follow up in 2009 showed spending by Hillsborough County grew at a faster clip than surrounding governments and at a rate well past what the combined forces of growth and inflation would have suggested was appropriate.

Turner takes a slightly different approach at saying the same thing, though Storms has noted in the past that few other governments were even cutting rates and that, added up over time, the rate cuts add up to real savings for property owners.

"We Can't Afford Any More Storms," the flier reads.

Storms' mailer is slicker and bigger and more colorful. It lays out a variety of claims, perhaps too many. The flier is very wordy. Most of it is devoted to anecdotal stories, taken from newspaper coverage, of taxpayers who suddenly got much larger assessments and faced potentially losing their property until a spotlight was shone on their situations. 

It notes, a la other campaign mailers this season, that Turner has remarried, an appeal presumably to more socially conservative voters. And it reiterates stories of his many travels out of the office and his admission of sending porn by email to his former human resources director, who he previously dated and since fired. Most of the latter comes straight from the Times.

The mailers are attached. 

-- Times researcher John Martin contributed to this post.


[Last modified: Monday, August 13, 2012 5:02pm]


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