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Campaign letter questioned

With this year's political season entering the final stretch, a lot of campaign material is arriving in various mailboxes, much of it concerning who supports whom. If you get some, read it carefully.

One letter, by the president of a Tampa engineering company, says state Rep. S. L. "Spud" Clements, a Brandon Democrat running for his sixth term in House District 62, is bad for small business.

The letter writer, David L. Hurley of Landmark Engineering & Surveying Corp., identifies himself as a member of the Guardians Advisory Council of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a lobby group for small businesses.

Hurley, who backs Republican candidate Chris Corr in the race, writes that Clements' voting record "shows one of the lowest regards for local business of any legislator in the state of Florida."

Using an NFIB score card, Hurley calculated that in the two yearst , Clements has taken the NFIB's position on small-business issues only 30 percent of the time, when missed votes are included. Clements voted against the NFIB position on bad-check charges and workers compensation, according to the mailing.

The letter ends with a strong endorsement of Corr, a real estate and business manager in Apollo Beach.

But the NFIB is not endorsing Corr. In fact, the NFIB is not supporting anyone in the District 62 race, even though the organization has taken sides in at least 15 other House races.

Bill Herrle, the NFIB's state director in Tallahassee, said his organization has stayed neutral in the District 62 race because, as a rule, it does not go against an incumbent unless that candidate has a rating of less than 40 percent.

The NFIB, which does not count missed votes in its ratings, gave Clements a 60 percent, "just a shade under the average," Herrle said.

The group did not back Clements because the membership believed he was secure in his seat and that they should devote their efforts to candidates who needed help, Herrle said.

Herrle said he could not take issue with Hurley's mailing because it did not say that the NFIB endorsed Corr. But, after seeing the mailing, he said he would call Clements to make sure the lawmaker did not interpret it as an endorsement.

Corr and Hurley, who shared the idea and the expense of the mailing, said they did not consider it misleading because it is on Landmark Engineering letterhead.

As he has in the past, Clements accused Corr of running "a negative campaign."