The Republican primary in the state House District 58 election has turned nasty with Election Day approaching as mailers attacking candidate Yvonne Fry seem to come out of the blue.
Fry's campaign planned to retaliate this weekend with mailers critical of opponent Lawrence McClure.
The attacks on Fry seek to tar her as a "liberal" in the conservative district, citing her support for a referendum on the Go Hillsborough transit tax proposal, her supposed opposition to oil and gas fracking in Florida, and her opposition to a proposal by the Legislature for a referendum on increasing the homestead tax exemption.
Fry's campaign consultant, Brock Mikosky, blamed McClure's consultant, Anthony Pedicini, for the attacks, but suggested McClure must have known about them.
Pedicini, who has extensive ties to the state Republican Party and GOP legislative leadership, has been linked in the past to the use of outside committees to attack political opponents.
McClure denied any knowledge of the attacks and said he considered them inappropriate.
But Pedicini didn't specifically deny Mikosky's accusation.
"The Yvonne Fry campaign needs to stop lying about things," he responded via text message, declining to answer further questions.
McClure said he intended to question Pedicini about that but hadn't done so by mid-week.
One of the anti-Fry mailers came from the Ax the Tax committee headed by Orlando political operative Doug Guetzloe, who said he paid for it himself and expects to spend more, up to $15,000.
Guetzloe is an anti-tax crusader with a large following who has been accused of, and denied, threatening to use his mailing list to attack potential clients who don't hire him. He has never been charged with any such crime, but has served time for failing to file federal tax returns and violating political campaign laws.
His most recent appearance on the Hillsborough scene was crusading to preserve the courthouse Confederate monument.
Asked why he cared to spend his own money on this race, Guetzloe said, "I'm a good Republican," with a long family history in Hillsborough County.
Two other mailers came from a political committee called Hillsborough County Conservatism Counts, formed Friday, Sept. 22, but still able to design, print, send and pay for mailers that reached homes in the district the following Monday.
The committee's only named officer is Ash Mason of Tampa, a former state and federal legislative aide who's now chairman of the Christian Coalition of Florida. Via text message, Mason bashed Fry but wouldn't answer questions about the committee.
The state and national Christian Coalition didn't respond to inquiries about the matter. The committee won't have to report its sources of funding until after the Oct. 10 primary.
The anti-Fry attack mailers are typical last-minute political blasts featuring wildly exaggerated or distorted name-calling based on fragments of fact.
Fry insists she does not oppose fracking but apparently was linked on Facebook to a group called "Go Frack Yourself."
One of the Mason mailers, embellished with a photo of a sinister demonstrator wearing a black hoodie and face mask, says that means Fry is "a liberal who supports liberal causes and groups like Go Frack Yourself" and "policies like … banning oil drilling."
Miami win may encourage Tampa Dems
Will the Democratic win in a state Senate special election in Miami on Tuesday encourage Democratic candidates to take on Republicans in 2018?
Maybe, but there still are no concrete signs.
Democrat Annette Taddeo won the Miami election in a swing district carried by Hillary Clinton but previously held by a Republican. Democrats say that and similar wins in other states mean they're surging toward 2018 on an anti-Trump backlash.
Prominent lawyer Bob Buesing, who ran against state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, in 2016, is considering another try in 2018.
He called Taddeo's win "great news … obviously a good sign for that Senate race in 2018." Buesing said he'll convene his support network for further discussion but he's not ready to pull the trigger.
Still, Dan Newman of the Florida Democratic Party's state House campaign committee, said the Taddeo win will encourage candidates and potential donors.
"If somebody's trying to convince a Democrat to run for a legislative office, it's a more appealing pitch today than it was yesterday," he said.
Contact William March at [email protected]