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St. Petersburg: Committee tied to Florida Realtors keeps attacking Kathleen Ford



ST. PETERSBURG — Mayoral hopeful Kathleen Ford is on the end of another attack by one of Florida's powerful lobbying groups.

After sending attack mailers last week, the Council for Stronger Neighborhoods, a group tied to the Florida Realtors, sent another one on Tuesday.

The Orlando-based group, an electioneering communications organization, urges voters in its most recent ad to call Ford and "tell her we can't afford petty and divisive politics."

Last week's ads called Ford "unfit to lead" and says she "is making a mockery of a yet another election."

The mailers follow the Pinellas Realtor Organization's endorsement of Mayor Bill Foster in the Aug. 27 primary. Foster also is facing a challenge from former council member and state legislator Rick Kriseman.

Foster called the ads "just detestable and childish" and said the group didn't notify his campaign before sending them. The ads get in the way of spirited campaigns about promoting visions for the city, Foster added.

He said he wouldn't wish the ads on Ford, Kriseman or anyone seeking public office.

"I think they're done in poor taste," Foster said. "They reflect poorly on the people sending them. It doesn't help anybody."

Even some within the real estate community think the attack ads have gone too far.

"I'm appalled by the attacks on Ford," said Bonnie Strickland, a Foster supporter who works for ReMax Metro. "I don't support that. There has to be some level of integrity."

Gary Schraut, chairman of the group and an agent with Century 21 Alliance Realty in Brooksville, could not be reached for comment.

Foster is well liked by workers in the real estate industry, campaign records show.

Of the $127,608 he raised this year, 14 percent — $18,127 — came from the industry. Earlier this month, five political committees tied to the Florida Realtors donated a total of $2,500.

Strickland said she supports Foster because she believes he has taken the city to a new level and is always willing to share his visions with her corporate clients thinking about moving to St. Petersburg.

She points to the ongoing construction throughout the city and the resurgence of the downtown area. She acknowledged that Kriseman and Ford are good candidates but said Foster is the best.

"The city is headed in the right direction," said Strickland, who deals with corporate relocations. "He's a very strong leader."

It's unknown when the Council for Stronger Neighborhoods planned the mailers, but they could be helping Kriseman.

An automated telephone survey done this week by shows Ford trailing Foster and Kriseman. The survey pegs Foster at 33 percent and Kriseman at 32 percent. Ford, who once topped early polls, came in at 22 percent. Fringe candidates Paul Congemi and Anthony Cates recorded a combined 4 percent. Undecided voters pulled 9 percent, the poll shows.

Blogger and political consultant Peter Schorsch commissioned the poll.

Cesar Fernandez, Kriseman's campaign manager, dismissed the idea that Kriseman is benefiting from the attack ads.

"The only ads that help are the ones that make a case why Rick is better than Foster," Fernandez said.

Those ads are coming from Jacksonville.

Fact Check Florida, an electioneering communications organization, has sent multiple mailers touting Kriseman as the better candidate. The mailers arrived shortly after the group was incorporated on July 17.

The groups don't have limits on contributions or expenditures. They can coordinate with candidates but not expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate.

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 12:01pm]


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