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Flier adds firepower to race in District 45

The foreboding front page of the mailer puts the reader at the business end of an Uzi.

Beneath it, in large letters, are the words "WEAPONS OF WAR."

Inside is a comparison between the two candidates for state House District 45 and their supposed stands on military-style assault weapon bans.

The Democrat, Marcelino Oliva, supports such a ban. "He will work to protect us from these dangerous killing machines by banning all types of these dangerous military-style weapons of war. Period," the mailer claims.

The Republican, Mike Fasano, is opposed, the mailer states. He "would stand aside while these semiautomatic weapons of war remain available in stores for purchase by any gang member or violent criminal."

On Friday, Fasano shot back at Oliva over the political piece, saying it echoed the Dade City osteopathic physician's tactics in the 1992 state Senate District 10 race.

"They're reaching," Fasano told the Times. "That's nothing but a distortion and a misrepresentation."

Rick Melendi, Oliva's campaign manager, said the mailer was based on a National Rifle Association report card on both candidates.

Fasano, who told the NRA he would oppose further legislation banning the sale and possession of semiautomatic assault weapons by law-abiding citizens, got an A.

Oliva, who would support a ban on the sale (but not possession), got a D.

Melendi denied that the mailer, which reached voters Thursday, was a desperation measure. He didn't see it as a distortion or a misrepresentation.

"I don't think it's taking it too far," Melendi said. "If you don't ban these weapons, they will remain in stores and anyone can purchase the weapons, be it with violent intentions or not. I think the mailer is fair."

Fasano disagreed. "I am in favor of the laws that exist, but I wouldn't change anything that allows law-abiding citizens to own legal weapons."

In a news release, Fasano insisted that he opposes criminals acquiring guns and supports mandatory prison sentences for felons who illegally possess firearms or use guns while committing crimes.

Fasano raised the specter of the 1992 campaign, during which Oliva's campaign consultants mailed a misleading flier depicting opponent Chuck Smith as a polluter. Oliva was tagged a "mudslinger" in a Times editorial and Smith called him a "scumbag," Fasano noted.

Ultimately, Oliva lost the 1992 race. This year, when he announced his candidacy for District 45, he called the incident a mistake and vowed it would not happen again.

"Marcelino's attacks backfired two years ago, and I am certain his attacks will backfire this time," Fasano wrote. "While I am walking door to door, voters are really sick and tired of negative campaigns which are filled with distortions and lies, and Oliva's mailer certainly fits into that category."

Melendi defended the mailer. "The pieces coming from the Oliva campaign are factual, informational and truthful."

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