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Mailing slams Jack Mariano, but raises questions about rival Ginny Miller, too

Ginny Miller was for a tourist tax-funded tennis stadium in Wesley Chapel before she was against it. Or maybe she's still for it.

It's hard to tell, because Miller, a Democrat, refused to say definitively Friday where she stands on the $7.9-million project, beset for years by delays.

However, a mailing by the Florida Democratic Party uses the project to hit County Commissioner Jack Mariano, her Republican opponent in Tuesday's election.

"Jack Mariano voted to spend nearly $8-million tourism tax dollars to build a tennis stadium that will benefit a developer — then took campaign money from the developer!" the mailing says, among other charges.

That's true. Mariano, who also sits on the Tourist Development Council, has supported the stadium on that panel and as a first-term commissioner. Saddlebrook owners Tom and Eleanor Dempsey, who would run the stadium, contributed a total of $2,000 to his campaign this year, finance records say.

Whoever wins Tuesday's election will vote on a final contract to run the complex.

But here's what the mailer doesn't say: Miller also voted for the tennis stadium in November 2002 as a member of the Tourist Development Council. The Times reported then that she noted Saddlebrook's record as a solid business put the project in good hands.

"I have approved a truthful comparison piece," Miller said Friday. "I probably have a position on it. I'm not saying I do or I don't."

But Pasco County Republican Party chairman Bill Bunting called the mailing "dirty politics."

"You know, the problem here is they're just not honest. That's it in a nutshell," Bunting said.

In 2002, the complex was estimated to cost $5.7-million. But its location was changed and construction costs increased. At its February 2007 meeting, the tourist council approved the higher-cost plan. Miller, who served on the tourism board when she was on the New Port Richey City Council, was absent for that vote.

On Friday, Miller said she missed the 2007 meeting because she didn't get a notice of the new location in time. She said she will tell voters her current position when "she's back up to date" on the project.

Pressed as to why, she said she hasn't participated in any debate over the project since then.

"You're bullying me," she told a Times reporter.

After almost six years, she didn't have enough information?

"No, why would I?" she said. "There are a ton of things that a candidate could not possibly know."

Mariano said the mailer was unfair. As for Miller's response?

"I think it speaks volumes … just with the information you've got there," Mariano said.

"Actions are louder than words."

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6232.

Mailing slams Jack Mariano, but raises questions about rival Ginny Miller, too 10/31/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 4, 2008 8:47am]
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