Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'Pleasant' Pasco commission race turns sour

When he began running for County Commission a year ago, citrus grower Ron Oakley met with the man he is trying to unseat, incumbent Commissioner Ted Schrader.

"I told him I would run a good campaign and a good race," Oakley said. "There were no promises made and no commitments made."

For months in the County Commission, District 1, open primary, the two men raised and spent big, but they largely focused on their own records. The worst accusation Oakley made was that his opponent is sometimes slow to respond to constituent concerns.

That tone has changed.

With only two weeks until the Aug. 14 election, Oakley's campaign has flooded voters' mailboxes with a flier calling Schrader "Taxing Ted." It added: "Ted Schrader has picked our pockets long enough. It's time he paid the price."

Oakley said he simply wanted to draw a contrast with his opponent.

"I just presented facts," he said. "There is a difference. You've got a fellow that's been taxing and known to be taxing, and you've got someone else that wants to cut taxes."

Schrader said the piece "is clearly a misrepresentation of my voting record."

"This just demonstrates that Ronnie can't be trusted," Schrader said. In meetings with east Pasco business owners, "he indicated to them that he was going to stay positive, he wasn't going to go negative."

Oakley responded: "I think he's gotten something mixed up between truthfulness and trustworthiness. I've been very truthful about my entire campaign, and I think I've had a very positive campaign."

The flier hit right before the start of early voting, which begins Saturday and lasts through Aug. 11. The winner-take-all contest is open to voters of all parties.

Until now, the toughest criticism came from a third candidate, Republican activist Rachel O'Connor. At a debate last month, she said Oakley and Schrader are part of the same "good old boy" network, and hinted they would use the office to enrich their personal fortunes. Both men rebuked that charge.

Just before the flier hit mailboxes, state Senate candidate Wilton Simpson of Trilby lauded the candidates for their positive tone.

"They're not mudslinging," Simpson said Tuesday morning. "It's pleasant actually. This is one of those things that voters say they want."

Simpson said he is friends with both Oakley and Schrader. His company gave $500 to Schrader's campaign, but he is not endorsing anyone in the race.

On Wednesday, Simpson sounded disappointed: "I don't like it that there was any negativity in the campaign. It's disappointing either one of them would go after each other."

Oakley's mailer includes six news clips from the Times, including a June 5 story after the all-Republican commission unanimously endorsed a higher property tax rate to make up for falling property values.

The so-called "roll back" rate has featured prominently in another commission race this year when a Tallahassee political committee sent mailers attacking District 5 Commissioner Jack Mariano for the same vote.

Both mailers equate the decision with raising property taxes. But neither mailer says the rate is designed to collect the same amount of revenue as the previous year. The tax rate is higher, but property values dropped by nearly 6 percent. Property owners — on average — would pay the same in taxes as the year before.

Whether individual property owners pay higher taxes, though, depends on their specific situation. Oakley said some property owners have told him the new rate will increase their taxes.

Schrader "thinks just because those taxes are near the same as they were the year before, then he didn't raise taxes," Oakley said. "But if you left (the tax rate the same), it would be less taxes."

Oakley's mailer doesn't include Schrader's comments from the June article that he would reduce the rate if Pasco and other Florida counties win a court battle with the Legislature over a new Medicaid billing law that will cost the county $4 million. Schrader said Wednesday that commissioners will try to find other savings to adopt a slightly lower rate when the budget takes effect Oct. 1.

Schrader said he was the "strongest proponent" to include a property tax reduction in the initial round of the Penny for Pasco sales tax, which voters approved in 2004. So far, that has reduced school property taxes by about $70 million. He also said he repeatedly voted to lower the county's property tax rate during boom times.

He said he will "respond accordingly" to Oakley's flier, but he hasn't decided when a rebuttal would be released.

"I'm confident the voters will see through this charade," he said. "They're just sick and tired of seeing misrepresentations being laid out. They want to find solutions."

Lee Logan can be reached at or (727) 869-6236.

'Pleasant' Pasco commission race turns sour 08/01/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 15, 2012 3:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. With home demolition, Pasco begins effort to alleviate Holiday Hills flooding

    Local Government

    PORT RICHEY — Year after year, from his front porch, Jeff Ward has watched yards flood and rivers form in the streets, carrying canoes instead of cars after heavy rain.

    An excavator clears rubble from a razed home in Holiday Hills.
  2. Tampa Chamber of Commerce offers boost to black and Hispanic-owned businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — There's a disconnect in Hillsborough County's minority business community.

    Gaston Meredith of Gaston's Culinary Services listens to LaKendria Robinson, Director of Minority Business Accelerator & Economic Inclusion during an information session at the Robert W. Saunders Library in Tampa on Tuesday.
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. College World Series puts Florida Gators in elite company


    With Tuesday night's College World Series win, the Florida Gators put themselves in rare company.

    Florida celebrates after defeating LSU in Game 2 of the College World Series finals, Tuesday, in Omaha, Neb.
  4. Bucs like their offensive line, but PFF, not so much


    As the Bucs prepare for training camp and the buildup to the 2017 season, no position presents more of a he-said-she-said dichotomy than offensive line.

    The Bucs have confidence in third-year left tackle Donovan Smith (76) as well as right guard J.R. Sweezy and center Ali Marpet, shown during mandatory minicamp this month.