PALM HARBOR — What do President Barack Obama and Pinellas County Commission candidate Bob Hackworth have in common?
If you believe longtime Commissioner Susan Latvala: a lot. Campaign fliers mailed by Latvala this week tie her Democratic opponent to the embattled president, alleging Hackworth would bring Obama's "big government, liberal agenda to Pinellas" and riffing off an Obama slogan that "Hackworth is not the change we need."
Hackworth, a former mayor of Dunedin, laughed off the ad as an irrelevant and "totally bogus" scare tactic.
"It's kind of a sign of desperation on her part," Hackworth said. "She's run out of things to talk about as they relate to things in Pinellas County, so she wants to talk about federal issues."
The flier showcases portraits of the president and two quotes from 2008: one, from a radio interview, of Hackworth praising Obama's "issues and initiatives," and another, from the Times, saying Hackworth supports "universal health care and citizenship for illegal immigrants." The actual Times story describes Hackworth as supporting "Obama's plan for comprehensive immigration reform," though Latvala insisted the flier was correct.
Latvala, the 10-year North Pinellas District 4 commissioner who won the Republican primary in August, said the ad was not negative or a stretch.
"I'm not going to bash him publicly. His record speaks for itself," she said. "He is quoted as saying how wonderful Obama's plans are … and that taxes are the solution. … Raising taxes is a local level issue, and that's what he has been talking about all through this campaign."
In the heated runup to the Nov. 2 general election, both Latvala, 61, and Hackworth, 55, have accused the other's campaign of mudslinging. In a June e-mail, Latvala told Hackworth, "I will not participate in your style of campaigning."
But Hackworth said Latvala's ploy to tie him to national controversy was just another page in her playbook of partisan slams.
"It's hardly an original strategy, but there's usually a shred of connection between the federal issue and the race that people are running in," Hackworth said. "I guess it's politics as usual."
Contact Drew Harwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4170.