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Political makeover can't hide the facts about Blaise Ingoglia

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If you've seen his mailed-out advertisements, you've seen the new Blaise Ingoglia.

This Blaise, the Republican candidate for the District 35 seat in the Florida House of Representatives, usually wears unassuming polo shirts or respectable, pressed button-downs.

One exception is his appearance in outdoor gear, shotgun in hand, palling around with hunters whose right to bear arms he pledges to protect.

He's got some other friends, too: members of an unnamed, wholesome-looking family apparently recruited to look grateful for his promises to support law enforcement and improve schools.

It's also this smiling, clean-cut Blaise who can be seen in an ad paid for by the state Republican Party, one that says, "Blaise Ingoglia has earned our trust."

No, he hasn't.

Remember the old Blaise, in his Government Gone Wild seminars, with his garish, open-collar shirts and gold chains? This Blaise thought nothing of throwing out misleading statistics to smear public workers.

He spread misinformation about Florida's growth and his own prominence as a builder — he is not, nor was he ever, "one of the largest" in Florida — to sell houses at real estate seminars.

Old Blaise also has a long history of delinquent payments on the property taxes for his home in Spring Hill.

Who are his friends? Well, as vice chairman of the state Republican Party, he has a lot of them, and no doubt many of them are fine citizens.

But during the home-building boom, he worked a lot with a property appraiser named Kim MacKeil. Her error-filled, cheerleading appraisals, the former chairman of the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board said in a 2009 interview, seemed tailored to justify Ingoglia's pitch that there was easy money to be made by flipping his houses.

You won't see her in his ads. Nor will you see the poker players Ingoglia hung out with on the high-stakes tournament circuit in Las Vegas.

Is this really news? Is there anything unusual about political advertisements putting a candidate in the best possible light?

Of course not. What's different here is the shortage of opportunities to challenge the newly packaged image of Ingoglia or to pin him down about how he plans to make good on the bland promises he makes in his mailbox-clogging ads.

When he repeats his slogan, "It's about jobs," does he have anything in mind other than Gov. Rick Scott's failed policy of handouts to corporations? Did he read Craig Pittman's report in Sunday's Times about the gutting of Florida's environmental protection agencies and, if so, how can he claim excessive regulation is strangling enterprise?

He can't. Not with the facts.

The problem is, he doesn't have to.

The declining influence of newspapers allowed him to do something that in the past legitimate candidates almost never did: blow off an interview with the Times editorial board.

Political forums generally offer less public access and fewer tough questions. Most notably, the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce has abandoned its previous format — newspaper editors asking questions, the public invited to watch on television or listen on the radio — for a parade of stump speeches called Politics in the Park.

And, finally, money rules more than ever. Ingoglia's campaign has raised $215,000 and with his position in the party and his connections in Tallahassee, he has access to hundreds of thousands more in case he needs it.

He probably won't. His Democratic opponent, Rose Rocco, has raised $7,123, not nearly enough to remind voters of the old Blaise. Which is a shame, because until his actions and not his advertisements show us differently, that's the real Blaise.

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