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District 57 campaign still heated

This month, state Rep. Jim Frishe sent more than 2,000 letters telling voters "the Florida Legislature has done a lot to make your lives easier and safer." Frishe, R-Pinellas Park, listed eight accomplishments, including this one:

"We passed well-crafted "living will' laws to ensure your right to live a dignified life to the very end."

There is only one problem, said Mary Brennan, who is Frishe's Democratic opponent in the November general election.

Frishe voted against the "living will" law.

Brennan said Frishe has no right to claim "we" passed the law. "Well, "we' didn't," she said. " "They' did, and he voted against it.

"He says one thing in the district, and he does another thing in Tallahassee," she added. "If he's going to lie about something that is so easy to check, how can he be trusted on anything else?"

Frishe said Brennan was "nitpicking." Besides, he said, he helped shape the bill, though he voted against it. He said he pushed for wording that would allow the next of kin to prevent doctors in some cases from shutting off feeding and hydration tubes to a patient with a living will.

He said he did not mean to imply that he had voted for the bill. He said he probably would vote for the bill today, although he is not sure.

"If that's the one flaw that she can find in my campaign, then I think I'm doing pretty good," Frishe said.

On Nov. 6, he and Brennan will know whether the voters agree.

Brennan and Frishe are running for the District 57 seat in the state House of Representatives, which is roughly bounded by Interstate 275, 40th Avenue N, Ulmerton and Starkey roads.

Frishe, 41, has been the district's state representative since 1984. Brennan, 36, former Pinellas Park public information officer and a former chairwoman of the Pinellas Democratic Executive Committee, ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 1988.

The District 57 area had two of the most hotly contested races in the primary election, and as the exchange over living wills shows, the campaign has not died down.

But it has changed.

Frishe was rather theatrical in the primary election. At one campaign debate, he waved a cat o' nine tails, a kind of whip. He wanted to show the kind of marital aids his opponent, Lindsay Heine, stocked in her store, the Tobacco Emporium in Pinellas Park.

But in this campaign he repeatedly has said he wants to run on the issues. He has run long newspaper ads in the Pinellas Park News, some of which make concrete proposals.

Among them:

He has supported spending $81-million in state money to match the federal government's Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, which pays for food for young mothers and infants.

He wants the state to use $10-million in the next fiscal year for grants and loans for commercial recyclers.

He also promised to introduce a bill that would force newspapers to use 100-percent recycled paper.

Frishe also has spoken of his work on bills designed to reduce the dropout rate and remove drugs from the workplace.

Brennan was rather low-key in the primary. She spoke mostly about her background as a reporter and newspaper editor and her community service on the Pinellas Park Chamber of Commerce and other groups.

But she has gone on the offensive in this campaign. She said her attitude changed somewhat after studying Frishe's legislative history.

"When I learned and read how he voted against women, poor, children and the elderly, it tripled my commitment to beat him," she said.

She has criticized Frishe as being an ineffective legislator, and recently sent a mailing citing a Miami Herald poll that rated Frishe as the least effective member of the House last year. The survey was mentioned frequently in the primary. Frishe said the poll is prepared mostly by lobbyists who care about Dade County more than Pinellas County.

She also accuses Frishe of taking too much money from political-action committees. "I will be your public-interest watchdog, not a special-interest lap dog," Brennan is fond of saying.

Frishe counters that Brennan may be beholden to Democratic leaders supporting her campaign.

Brennan said she would work hard to promote education, keep the environment clean and have the government study ash from the county-operated incinerator in Pinellas Park to see whether it is safe.

She believes women have the right to choose whether to have abortions and does not believe girls under 18 should have to ask their parents for permission to have an abortion.

Frishe opposes abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother.

Frishe has raised $52,389 and spent $26,482 on his campaign, finance reports show. Brennan has raised $8,594 and spent $7,513.

Registration figures show the district is almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. About 45.3 percent of the voters are Republicans, about 44.3 percent are Democrats and about 10.3 percent are independents or members of minor political parties.

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