Thursday, June 21, 2018
Politics

'RINO' mailer takes aim at two Pasco commission hopefuls

Two rhinos hang out on a beach. One, wearing red lipstick and painted toenails, lounges in a hammock strung between two palm trees. The other fans her with a large blue feather.

What to make of this strange scene?

It's County Commission hopeful Chris Gregg's latest campaign mailer, attacking two opponents in the crowded Republican primary for District 3, the seat held by retiring Commissioner Ann Hildebrand.

"I wanted to be fun and satirical and try to convey maybe that some of the people running aren't true Republicans," said Gregg, who sent the mail piece to Republican primary "super" voters.

(If you missed the subtlety, Gregg was calling his opponents RINOs, or Republicans In Name Only.)

The piece labels one rhino as Randy Evans, a retired Coast Guard investigator making his first run for public office. But most of the criticism is aimed at former School Board member Kathryn Starkey.

"Can Pasco afford another ineffective career politician?" the mailer says. "With next to no private sector experience and a record of raising taxes, Pasco cannot afford Kathryn Starkey."

Starkey replied: "He got the color of my lipstick right. But he's so wrong on his facts." She used a PolitiFact term to describe the ad, calling it "way Pants on Fire."

Starkey said she has plenty of private-sector experience, including running her own interior design firm and serving as marketing director for a publishing company. She is also an advisor to Old Port Capital, a business development company.

She also defended her property tax record while on the School Board and a basin board under the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

In both cases, she said, "we never raised the millage. It's just that the budget got bigger because the (property) valuations got bigger." On the basin board, she said she made "motion after motion" to lower the property tax rate but was voted down by other members.

Gregg also criticized Starkey for supporting the initial passage of the Penny for Pasco in 2004. She said that tax passed before she was elected as a School Board member. She called it a "very responsible" tax. "I wish all of our spending was so closely watched and monitored," she said.

Starkey's campaign recently sent her own mailer to Republican voters. The piece includes a five-point list of goals and uses the word "conservative" to describe Starkey three times.

The front of Gregg's mailer includes a photo of Gregg's family and several campaign goals. But it presents a seeming contradiction. It says he wants to eliminate park fees, improve county roads and boost money for law enforcement and fire services. But he also urges voters to cast their ballot for "less government, less taxes."

Asked how he can do both, Gregg said: "You look at efficiencies. You can go and review contracts. We need to look at ways of making the government more efficient." Gregg said he included Evans in his rhino scene because of Evans' support for accepting state and federal grants to reduce the burden on county taxpayers.

"Evans still to this day keeps thinking state and federal grant money is free money and it doesn't effect Pasco residents," he said. "It builds on the state debt and the federal debt."

Gregg said he's "not foolish" and knows the county will have to continue accepting some grants for a period of time. But he hopes to phase them out over the next five to 10 years.

Said Evans: "He might be deliberately trying to mislead people. He doesn't want to stick to the issues for some reason. Maybe he should stick to his day job instead of cartoons."

Evans said he also plans to send a mailer over the next few days, focusing on his background and platform.

Karen King and Josh Griffin round out the Republican field in the Aug. 14 primary. The winner will face Democrat Matt Murphy in the general election.

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

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