Ron Oakley lobbed a second attack last week in his campaign to unseat Commissioner Ted Schrader, accusing the three-term commissioner of getting "favorable treatment" from "friends" on the County Commission on a 2003 development deal that benefitted his family.
The campaign flier refers to a central Pasco development now known as Watergrass, which is east of Curley Road about 2 miles north of State Road 54. At the time, the Schrader family owned a little more than 1,000 acres and won approval for a more intensive development pattern. Months later, the family sold the land to a development company.
"Smell that?" Oakley's mail piece reads. "Schrader the Insider got favorable treatment from his fellow commissioners. Hours later, Ted sold out and cashed in."
Schrader abstained from discussions and votes concerning the deal. He said he also did not talk with county staffers about the project. He called Oakley's mail piece "dirty, nasty politics at its worst."
"I'm still focusing on what's really important," he said. "I'm not going to get down in the gutter with Mr. Oakley."
Schrader said there were a "multitude" of similar rezoning requests in the early 2000s, and his family just happened to be involved in one of them. Commissioner Ann Hildebrand, part of a commission majority that approved the land-use change, said the deal involved no special treatment.
"If Ronnie was a commissioner, and I know he has land holdings, he would have to go through the same exercise that Commissioner Schrader did," she said.
The two men face GOP activist Rachel O'Connor in Tuesday's winner-take-all contest that is open to voters from all parties.
Later in the week, Schrader released a positive mail piece, touting endorsements from the area's two daily newspapers and noting the county's property tax rate fell by 30 percent during his time in office. His only retort to Oakley's attack: "Don't be misled by last minute campaign ads by desperate candidates!"
Oakley spends big for Commission seat
In the final two weeks of the campaign, Oakley spent nearly $75,000 of his own money on his campaign, most of which went to a flurry of last-minute campaign fliers. That brings his personal investment to just shy of $175,000, more than twice the job's $81,141 annual salary.
Mail ballots up; early voting lags behind '10
Through Friday afternoon, nearly 14,000 Pasco voters cast mail ballots, exceeding the total from 2010's primary by 40 percent. The more than 6,000 early votes cast as of Friday exceeds 2008's total but still lags behind the number from 2010. (That number does not include Saturday, the final day of early voting.) Now we just have to wait to see how Election Day turnout compares.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Contact an elections office toll-free at 1-800-851-8754 or go to pascovotes.com to find your polling place.
Endorsement mixup miffs Sheriff's union
The Pasco chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed commission hopeful Bill Gunter, who is challenging two-term Commissioner Jack Mariano. So it's not surprising the union representing sheriff's deputies is upset that Mariano included an old plaque from the group in a campaign flier. (The flier clearly says the plaque is from 2009 and does not call it a campaign endorsement.)
"Jack chose to do a surreptitious endorsement," said Lodge 29 president William Lawless. "It gives the implication that he was endorsed, and obviously he was not."
Fasano takes late heat in House race
Just days before the election, Jim Mathieu blasted Sen. Mike Fasano with a mail piece in their campaign for a West Pasco state House seat. The flier accused the 18-year lawmaker of being "one of the most liberal senators in Florida."
It also includes an image of a "secret file" that attacks Fasano for earlier living outside the newly redrawn district, accepting federal stimulus money and supporting former Gov. Charlie Crist's independent bid for U.S. Senate.
Mathieu, the vice chairman of the Pasco Republican Party, recently received a $5,000 contribution from the county party. Several party officials have sparred with Fasano over the Crist race, and Fasano has worked to oust GOP state committeeman Bill Bunting.
Most observers would consider Fasano a moderate, not a liberal. He's more than willing to buck party leadership, especially on populist issues such as property insurance. But he is very conservative on other issues such as gun rights and abortion.
Fasano brushed off the criticisms Friday morning. "We have done nothing but a positive, grass roots campaign," he said. "We have no intentions of being critical of our opponent. It'll stay positive right through Tuesday."
Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236. For more political news, visit the Buzz at blogs.tampabay.com/buzz.