DADE CITY — Debra Barnes grabbed her son's mail from the Dade City post office Monday morning, just as she's done the past five years since he moved away to attend the University of Florida.
This time, something unusual caught her eye.
A pile of fliers sat on a table. They featured grainy black and white photos and descriptions — in some cases unflattering — of incumbent City Commissioner Steve Van Gorden and candidates Curtis Beebe and Mike Agnello.
Beebe is the "peace breaker recall king," the flier said. In 2007, the technology consultant led an effort to remove Commissioner Camille Hernandez from office after she wrote a controversial letter to the governor calling for an investigation of Mayor Hutch Brock and then-City Manager Harold Sample. The investigation never occurred and the recall effort fizzled after six weeks.
The flier attacked Agnello as a "drunk and a thief." In 2007, the state said Agnello, who owns the Osceola Tavern just south of downtown, failed to pay taxes on his bar revenue.
And Van Gorden, who has served on the commission since 2004, is an "Elmer Fudd political dog." Van Gorden, who is also the principal at Hudson Middle School, said he wasn't quite sure what that meant. Elmer Fudd is a bumbling character in Bugs Bunny cartoons.
"Say no" to those candidates, the flier urged.
The 10 fliers were on a table near the post office boxes in a room open 24 hours. The area is monitored by security cameras, but postmaster Jeff Alston said he probably won't review the tapes.
The cameras are for security purposes and at this point, it didn't appear the people behind the fliers broke any rules, he said.
Alston was almost a candidate in the race. He submitted some of the papers to run in the Group 5 seat, which currently pits Agnello against incumbent Eunice Penix. However, Alston did not complete all the paperwork by the deadline.
Van Gorden called the creator of the fliers "cowardly" for not claiming responsibility.
"It's pretty sad that someone has to sit up late at night and think about me and how they could tease me. & To be honest, I am really disgusted at the level this campaign has come to," he said.
Earlier this month, many of the candidates, including Van Gorden, reported stolen campaign signs.
Barnes, who found the fliers, said she had a Beebe sign stolen from her yard. She didn't want the Times to print the name of her street "because of how ugly this thing is getting."
Beebe and Agnello were more amused than offended by the flier.
"Frankly, I think it's funny," Beebe said.
Agnello said the photo used on the flier was one he posted on his Web site early Sunday morning. He criticized the creator's skill in resizing the picture.
"It makes my head look like the Hulk. If they're going to slander me, then they should at least do it right," he said.
His opponent, Penix, said she had not heard of the fliers found in the post office. She said she saw a different flier with her picture and that of Hernandez. It said a vote for Penix is a vote for Hernandez for mayor of Dade City and urged people to vote for Beebe, Agnello and Van Gorden, she said.
Penix would not say who gave her the flier.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 521-6518.