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  1. Florida Politics

Flier is latest salvo in hotly contested mayoral race in New Port Richey

Marlowe
Marlowe
Published Apr. 5, 2017

NEW PORT RICHEY — Mayor Rob Marlowe was shocked by the flier that arrived in his mailbox on Saturday.

It came from a political action committee out of Tallahassee and called for Marlowe's ouster from office — just days before voters head to the polls on April 11.

Marlowe's opponent, Ed Beckman, received the same flier, but he claims he had no idea it was coming.

It was the latest development in a hotly contested mayoral race that has captured the attention of city residents.

The mailer centers around comments Marlowe made recently concerning a troubled area of Pasco County, specifically two streets: Van Doren Avenue and Leisure Lane, off U.S. 19, behind a Publix-anchored shopping center, Southgate Center, which is inside the city limits.

Marlowe, along with other City Council members, have said recently that the county and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office have failed to clean up the area behind the shopping center, leaving drugs and prostitution problems to spill into the city.

Marlowe, the flier contends, has done nothing to reach out to the county for help — specifically naming county Commissioner Jack Mariano and Sheriff Chris Nocco as people he should have contacted.

The literature from the Committee to Protect Florida — a political action committee that has been linked to House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes — which had "Marlowe has to go!" splashed on it, coupled with the substantial campaign contributions Beckman has racked up, has Marlowe concerned that outside forces are looking to influence New Port Richey's mayoral election.

"I'm very disappointed that a Tallahassee PAC is attempting to inject itself in a city of New Port Richey election. These are the kind of dark money expenditures that have people so disenchanted on a national level, but in New Port Richey that really hasn't happened before," Marlowe said.

He also questioned the $12,000 Beckman has raised for his campaign, saying it is "far, far out of line" for what a candidate normally generates in a New Port Richey election.

"They are trying to take me out," the mayor said.

Who "they" is remains a mystery, Marlowe said. But he suspects because Mariano and Nocco are named in the flier, they may be involved.

Marlowe said he doesn't understand the motive, given the progress the city has made while he has served as mayor for three years and six years before that as a City Council member. He points to the money pumped into improvements at Sims Park, which now teems with families; the stabilization of the historic Hacienda Hotel, creating a redevelopment environment that has netted 30 new businesses downtown, and a booming urban agriculture movement in the city.

"I am happy to run on my record," he said.

Beckman, his opponent, is a retired Pasco County Sheriff's Office major who in the past ran the jail and the court services bureau for the agency. (When Beckman retired after three decades of service, he was ceremonially awarded the rank of colonel.)

Beckman, 51, said he had no knowledge of, and had nothing to do with, the anti-Marlowe mailer from Tallahassee, but said he was not surprised by it.

He surmised that Marlowe's style of playing the blame game — which he said was the case with the Van Doren Avenue/Leisure Lane issue — offended the county officials he called out, rather than choosing to work alongside them. It's the opposite of how he would operate if elected, he said.

"That is just where we are night and day personality-wise," Beckman said. "To me, just blaming somebody without reaching out to find a solution is like picking up your bat and ball and going home. That's not what leaders do. I don't have any idea about the flier, but apparently the people he was talking about responded. As for how I will serve as mayor, it will be from a position of communication, leadership and spirit of working with people."

Mariano told the Tampa Bay Times he has not made an official endorsement in the race, but supports Beckman. He added that he had no idea the flier was coming out, nor has he seen it.

"I am going to support (Beckman). I think he's a good guy and will do a good job," Mariano said.

The flier aside, Beckman said he has been focusing on a positive campaign, giving credit to the city for its Sims Park improvements. But he also disagreed with a recent vote Marlowe cast to spend funds on the city's recreation center while also trying to push through a road improvement assessment that brought out a groundswell of public opposition.

As for the Van Doren Avenue/Leisure issue, Marlowe acknowledged that he did not contact county commissioners or the sheriff because the city's staff has been working with county staffers to come up with the solution. The recommendation from the county, Marlowe said, was for the city to annex the area because the county and sheriff do not have the resources to address it.

Marlowe said he made his public comments on the issue because he agreed with the county's recommendation that the city should annex the area and focus resources on it.

"To sit there and say we have done nothing to work with the county is absolutely false. We have gone out of our way to work with the county," he said.

Beckman contends the city should hold off on annexing the streets, saying the county and Sheriff's Office are working to address the problems there, pointing to 170 calls for service that were answered there in the past year.

Beckman said his focus would be an aggressive partnership with the county to bring Pasco's Harbors redevelopment plan, which focuses on revitalizing west Pasco and the U.S. 19 corridor, to fruition. That plan includes the controversial Van Doren Avenue/Leisure Lane area.

Responding to Marlowe's questioning of Beckman's campaign contributions — including $1,000 from the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, with which the city is currently negotiating a contract — Beckman said he is proud of the support he has garnered from the community.

"Why wouldn't the PBA donate to my campaign? I am a member of the union and was in law enforcement for 30 years. I have worked with people for 30 years in Pasco County and developed a lot of personal and professional relationships that I am proud of," Beckman said. "I am humbled by the support I am getting and feel like I am resonating with the community. I just think the mayor is nervous, and he should be."

Beckman also said Marlowe should look at his own acceptance of donations from several local Democratic groups in a nonpartisan race.

Records at the Supervisor of Elections Office show Marlowe raised a total of $1,500 from the Pasco Democratic Executive Committee, the Trinity Democratic Club, the Heritage Pines Democratic Club, the West Pasco Democratic Club and the East Pasco Democratic Club.

But Beckman's $12,000 more than doubles Marlowe's fundraising total of just under $5,800. It is an unprecedented amount of cash in a municipal election in Pasco, according to Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley.

"It's substantially higher than what we have ever seen in the past in an election for a similar office," Corley said.

By Robert Napper

Times Correspondent

NEW PORT RICHEY — Mayor Rob Marlowe was shocked by the flier that arrived in his mailbox on Saturday .

It came from a political action committee out of Tallahassee and called for Marlowe's ouster from office — just days before voters head to the polls on April 11.

Marlowe's opponent, Ed Beckman, received the same flier, but claims he had no idea it was coming.

It was the latest development in a hotly contested mayoral race that has captured the attention of city residents.

The mailer centers around comments Marlowe made recently concerning a troubled area of Pasco County, specifically two streets: Van Doren Avenue and Leisure Lane, off U.S. 19, behind a Publix-anchored shopping center, Southgate Center, which is inside the city limits.

Marlowe, along with other City Council members, have said recently that the county and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office have failed to clean up the area behind the shopping center, leaving drugs and prostitution problems to spill into the city.

Marlowe, the flier contends, has done nothing to reach out to the county for help — specifically naming county Commissioner Jack Mariano and Sheriff Chris Nocco as people he should have contacted.

The literature from the Committee to Protect Florida — a political action committee that has been linked to House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes — which had "Marlowe has to go!" splashed on it, coupled with the substantial campaign contributions Beckman has racked up, has Marlowe concerned that outside forces are looking to influence New Port Richey's mayoral election.

"I'm very disappointed that a Tallahassee PAC is attempting to inject itself in a city of New Port Richey election. These are the kind of dark money expenditures that have people so disenchanted on a national level, but in New Port Richey that really hasn't happened before," Marlowe said.

He also questioned the $12,000 Beckman has raised for his campaign, saying it is "far, far out of line" for what a candidate normally generates in a New Port Richey election.

"They are trying to take me out," the mayor said.

Who "they" is remains a mystery, Marlowe said. But he suspects because Mariano and Nocco are named in the flier, they may be involved.

Marlowe said he doesn't understand the motive, given the progress the city has made while he has served as mayor for three years and six years before that as a City Council member. He points to the money pumped into improvements at Sims Park, which now teems with families; the stabilization of the historic Hacienda Hotel, creating a redevelopment environment that has netted 30 new businesses downtown, and a booming urban agriculture movement in the city.

"I am happy to run on my record," he said.

Beckman, his opponent, is a retired Pasco County Sheriff's Office major who in the past ran the jail and the court services bureau for the agency. (When Beckman retired after three decades of service, he was ceremonially awarded the rank of colonel.)

Beckman, 51, said he had no knowledge of, and had nothing to do with, the anti-Marlowe mailer from Tallahassee, but said he was not surprised by it.

He surmised that Marlowe's style of playing the blame game — which he said was the case with the Van Doren/Leisure issue — offended the county officials he called out, rather than choosing to work alongside them. It's the opposite of how he would operate if elected, he said.

"That is just where we are night and day personality-wise," Beckman said. "To me, just blaming somebody without reaching out to find a solution is like picking up your bat and ball and going home. That's not what leaders do. I don't have any idea about the flier, but apparently the people he was talking about responded. As for how I will serve as mayor, it will be from a position of communication, leadership and spirit of working with people."

Mariano told the Tampa Bay Times he has not made an official endorsement in the race, but supports Beckman. He added that he had no idea the flier was coming out, nor has he seen it.

"I am going to support (Beckman). I think he's a good guy and will do a good job," Mariano said.

The flier aside, Beckman said he has been focusing on a positive campaign, giving credit to the city for its Sims Park improvements. But he also disagreed with a recent vote Marlowe cast to spend funds on the city's recreation center while also trying to push through a road improvement assessment that brought out a groundswell of public opposition.

As for the Van Doren/Leisure issue, Marlowe acknowledged that he did not contact county commissioners or the sheriff because the city's staff has been working with county staffers to come up with the solution. The recommendation from the county, Marlowe said, was for the city to annex the area because the county and sheriff do not have the resources to address it.

Marlowe said he made his public comments on the issue because he agreed with the county's recommendation that the city should annex the area and focus resources on it.

"To sit there and say we have done nothing to work with the county is absolutely false. We have gone out of our way to work with the county," he said.

Beckman contends the city should hold off on annexing the streets, saying the county and Sheriff's Office are working to address the problems there, pointing to 170 calls for service that were answered there in the past year.

Beckman said his focus would be an aggressive partnership with the county to bring Pasco's Harbors redevelopment plan, which focuses on revitalizing west Pasco and the U.S. 19 corridor, to fruition. That plan includes the controversial Van Doren/Leisure area.

Responding to Marlowe's questioning of Beckman's campaign contributions — including $1,000 from the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, with which the city is currently negotiating a contract — Beckman said he is proud of the support he has garnered from the community.

"Why wouldn't the PBA donate to my campaign? I am a member of the union and was in law enforcement for 30 years. I have worked with people for 30 years in Pasco County and developed a lot of personal and professional relationships that I am proud of," Beckman said. "I am humbled by the support I am getting and feel like I am resonating with the community. I just think the mayor is nervous, and he should be."

Beckman also said Marlowe should look at his own acceptance of donations from several local Democratic groups in a nonpartisan race.

Records at the Supervisor of Elections Office show Marlowe raised a total of $1,500 from the Pasco Democratic Executive Committee, the Trinity Democratic Club, the Heritage Pines Democratic Club, the West Pasco Democratic Club and the East Pasco Democratic Club.

But Beckman's $12,000 more than doubles Marlowe's fundraising total of just under $5,800. It is an unprecedented amount of cash in a municipal election in Pasco, according to Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley.

"It's substantially higher than what we have ever seen in the past in an election for a similar office," Corley said.