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Mud slinging against Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin Beckner out of control

Here's a rather cynical strategy for getting voters to see things your way: Say something, anything, about a candidate, and maybe they'll believe it.

Nuance or even actual fact notwithstanding.

Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin Beckner appears to be the current target of that kind of local swiftboating. Why Beckner? Let us count the ways. He's running for re-election to an attractive countywide seat. He's a Democrat, one of only two on a right-leaning board of seven. (Though Republicans are also up for re-election next year, only the Democrats have opposition thus far.)

And although this detail hardly defines what Beckner has accomplished since he won the job over Brian Blair in 2008, he is the only openly gay commissioner. A factor? You tell me.

If the accusations on floridaactivist.com are to be believed, Beckner has spent his time in office filling his pockets and hiding public records from you. The blog post by Nadia Naffe, a conservative activist who was once a field director for the Bush-Cheney campaign, claims the commission job "has been a financial boon for Beckner."

That does sound bad!

Until you look a little closer.

Beckner, a financial planner, says his income grew from gains in investments, stocks and mutual funds that have nothing to do with his commission job. Said investments are specifically detailed on required financial disclosure forms.

Okay, but why does Commissioner Transparency and Openness hide property records related to his home address, huh? And, the blogger wonders, why doesn't he list his checking account?

But there it is, listed under "cash and equivalents" on those forms.

Then there's the question of his address.

Beckner lists his home's value as required. But Florida law says police can keep their addresses out of the public record for security reasons. Beckner shares a home with his longtime partner, Sgt. Gil Sainz, a 26-year veteran of the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office, though this did not stop the story from helpfully listing the address of neighbors who live across the street.

And funny, isn't it, that this conservative's blog post refers to Sainz as Beckner's "spouse" and implies he should face the same public scrutiny as if they were legally betrothed, when most conservatives I know aren't all that gung ho on legalizing gay marriage.

The Web story has other muddy shots in there, but you get the idea. And yes, such a site might be best ignored, except mud can stick. The implication that Beckner gorged himself at the public trough sounds a lot like former fellow-commissioner-turned-State Sen. Jim Norman, who raised eyebrows and a federal investigation with that vacation home of his wife's, paid for by a millionaire political activist. Ditto former Commissioner Kevin White, currently under indictment after the feds say he was peddling influence for cash.

Not a whit of which has ever touched Beckner's reputation as a politician.

Got real criticism involving actual facts? Bring it. It's certainly fair game to take issue with Beckner's stance on, say, budget decisions, pill mills or a diversionary program for first-time juvenile offenders.

But even in this ugly period of politics, you hope voters see through the mud to what's there and, just as important, what isn't.

Mud slinging against Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin Beckner out of control 08/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 19, 2011 8:37am]
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