As St. Petersburg voters choose a mayor and four City Council members, they would do well to ignore the slick, colorful ads that are showing up in their mailboxes. The city's election for mayor and council are now nonpartisan in name only, and mailings from third-party groups tend to be the most inaccurate and outrageous.
Both Mayor Bill Foster and challenger Rick Kriseman have been subjected to misleading attack ads. One recent flier sent out by the dubiously named Fact Check Florida attacked Foster for supporting a fee to pay for fire service and linked the issue to Gov. Rick Scott. The unpopular governor has endorsed Foster, but Scott had nothing to do with the fire fee that the City Council rejected.
A flier produced by the Voter Interest Group attacking Kriseman linked the former state legislator to the federal government shutdown. Never mind that Kriseman has never served in Congress.
These false attack ads by shadowy third-party groups are common in races for state and national office, but they are new for St. Petersburg city elections. The candidates can plead ignorance; the names of the out-of-town groups often sound innocuous; and the sources of the money behind the ads are difficult to trace. In the final days before the Nov. 5 election, voters should be skeptical of any campaign attack ads they find in their mailbox — particularly if they have never heard of the sender.