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Clay Bennett | Chattanooga Times Free Press

Tampa election marred by mud throwers

Tampa voters should brace themselves over the weekend for the usual garbage that has come to pass as campaigning in the closing hours of an election. Rose Ferlita has distinguished herself in the runoff race by tossing out one reckless charge after another against Bob Buckhorn in the race for mayor. Yvonne Yolie Capin and Chris Hart have sullied the water, too, in their hard-charging race for a citywide council seat. Election day on Tuesday cannot come soon enough.

Ferlita doesn't look anything like the trusted Tampa native and straight-shooting politician that voters had come to know. First she recycled an old charge that Buckhorn had endangered Tampa police by forcing officers to remove their shotguns from the front seats of their cars and lock them in the trunk. That baseless charge was first leveled in 1996 against Buckhorn's former boss, Mayor Sandy Freedman. The allegation was shown at the time to be false — police commanders made the change for the safety of their officers — and it is shameful that Ferlita would peddle the same smear 15 years later. She looked foolish making the charge on the same day the police union endorsed Buckhorn. She looked worse by refusing to admit her mistake.

Ferlita called Buckhorn an "elitist" because he wants to develop a closer partnership with the University of South Florida to create high-tech jobs. When that tag didn't stick, she accused him of being a "failed businessman" for reporting $7,000 in income last year. Buckhorn answered this question weeks ago. He resolved when he decided to run for mayor last year not to accept any new clients at his public affairs consulting firm. His goal was to avoid a conflict of interest. For that, Ferlita beat him over the head.

Capin and Hart have shown ugly sides, too. She inflated her endorsements and used her campaign literature not to push a vision but to cherry-pick the worst that the media had to say about Hart's time in public office and his political connections. Hart went off half-cocked and accused Capin of having cheated customers when she owned a small business. Hart admitted later his information was wrong. He apologized — but the damage had been done.

The city faces serious challenges, from balancing the budget and growing the economy to addressing transit, homelessness and crime. Voters deserve a clear picture of what the candidates stand for and where they would take the city. Unfortunately, the easiest route for some is to take the low road. As voters are bombarded with the final sound bites the next few days, it is worth remembering that how a candidate campaigns says a lot about how he or she would govern.

Tampa election marred by mud throwers 03/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2011 6:13pm]
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