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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Perry's anti-gay ad an issue for Florida pollster Tony Fabrizio



Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who has worked for gay-rights advocates in the past, has become the target of criticism among gay activists who opposed the Texas governor's latest Iowa ad that takes a swipe at the end of the Don't Ask Don't Tell military policy.

'"This is the dilemma for working in the Republican Party: the candidates need to appeal to the far right and that sometimes means bashing the gay community," said Stephen Gaskill, a former spokesman for the Florida Red and Blue committee that unsuccessfully tried to block a 2008 Florida constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Fabrizio was the Republican pollster hired by Florida Red and Blue, which paid his firm more than $264,000. Fabrizio also lives in one of the friendliest of gay towns, Miami Beach, where he has a South Beach condominium.

Fabrizio, who said by email that he couldn't chat this morning, was just quoted in the Huffington Post as having opposed the Perry ad, which he described as "nuts" in an email to Perry ad man Nelson Warfield, a longtime friend of Fabrizio's. Both men were top advisors to Rick Scott in his gubernatorial campaign last year.

Warfield took credit for the Perry ad, which laments that gays can serve in the military while religious values are under assault.

Michael Kenny, an activist with the gay-rights group Florida Together, worked on the Florida Red and Blue campaign with Fabrizio and said he didn't think Fabrizio had "anti-equality views" like those expressed in the Iowa ad. He said it was "despicable" of the Perry campaign to try to mine for votes by going after gays. Some activists say Fabrizio should resign from the campaign unless he's just, in Kenny's words, "a hired gun."

Fabrizio doesn't just work for anybody. In 1984, he said, he had to return a call on behalf of his then-boss, Arthur Finkelstein, to a potential client who wanted to run for a congressional seat in North Carolina, where they helped elect then-Sen. Jesse Helms.

Fabrizio said the man, whose name he couldn't recall, said he was a "Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan."

"You realize," Fabrizio said, "I'm a Catholic and my boss is a Jew?"

Said the Wizard: "I don't care what the hell you are if you get me elected."

"We didn't work for him," Fabrizio said.

-- Marc Caputo, Miami Herald.

[Last modified: Thursday, December 8, 2011 12:35pm]


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