Republican state Senate candidate Don Sullivan has sent a mailing to voters claiming Sen. Jeanne Malchon voted against two anti-crime bills, but Senate records show she actually cast votes in favor of the legislation. "The two things on this piece are outright lies," Malchon said. "It's just a flat-out lie."
Sullivan acknowledged that Malchon, D-St. Petersburg, actually did vote in favor of one of the bills, which was designed to require criminal background checks for gun buyers.
But Sullivan maintained that Malchon also voted for an amendment that helped kill the legislation; Malchon said her vote was simply to help pay for implementing the law.
Malchon said the two allegations were the type of mudslinging that hurts the political system, by discouraging people from running for office.
"It's beyond distortion now. It's absolute deceit."
Sullivan denied he had lied, and stood by the mailing.
Voters in the St. Petersburg area Tuesday will select either Malchon or Sullivan to be their state senator. Malchon, 67, of St. Petersburg, has been a state senator since 1982. Sullivan, of Seminole, is a surgeon with an office in St. Petersburg. He has not run for office before.
Malchon and Sullivan are competing to represent state Senate District 18, which includes Gulfport, most of St. Petersburg, part of Seminole and the beach communities from North Redington Beach south.
Sullivan claims in his mailing that:
"In 1990, Jeanne Malchon was one of only two senators who voted against a bill to apply the death penalty to cocaine kingpins _ those who traffic in over 330 pounds of cocaine or 60 pounds of heroin and whose activities result in a death."
But Senate records show that Malchon voted for the state's "drug kingpin" law.
Malchon did vote against a version of the "drug kingpin" law that did not pass the Legislature, and Sullivan said that was the bill he was referring to in the mailing.
Malchon said she voted against it because she did not believe the law was constitutional.
"In 1989, Jeanne Malchon was one of only a handful of senators who voted against a bill to require a criminal history background check for gun buyers."
But Senate records show Malchon voted for the bill.
Malchon said she voted for an amendment that was designed to provide the money and staff time needed to implement the law.
But Sullivan said by that time, in May 1989, the Legislature was too far along in its appropriations process to add in more money for the gun bill. Therefore, voting for the amendment to help implement the law actually helped to kill it, he said.
On a related issue, Gulfport Police Lt. Carl Bockiaro said he was troubled by a portion of the mailing that said parts of Gulfport, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County were "virtually under siege by crack cocaine dealers" and other criminals.
"We are definitely not under siege by crack cocaine dealers and this is terrible," Bockiaro said.
Sullivan said, "Perhaps it is not as precise as it should be." He said the mailing was not intended to demean any community.
The Florida Republican Party paid for the mailing, which went to about 20,000 voters.