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  1. Florida Politics

William March: Beltran defamation lawsuit against political operative is quietly settled

A defamation lawsuit by Republican state Rep. Mike Beltran against Tampa Republican political operative Anthony Pedicini has been quietly settled, and neither side is talking about it.

The suit arose from negative campaigning in the 2018 GOP primary for Beltran's southeast Hillsborough District 57 House seat. Pedicini worked for Beltran's opponent, Sean McCoy.

During the campaign, according to the lawsuit, a shell political committee set up by Pedicini and Tallahassee operative William Helmich, Veterans for Truth, sent out mailers attacking Beltran. The mailers said Beltran, a lawyer, "helps illegal aliens get back out on the streets," and that he "brags on his webpage about how he gets these criminal illegal aliens and drug traffickers off easy."

Beltran said that was knowingly false and defamatory and sued Pedicini, Helmich, McCoy and Pedicini's firm, Strategic Image Management.

The mailer apparently was based on a single criminal case handled by Beltran involving an illegal alien defendant — the only such defendant he's ever represented, Beltran said in his lawsuit.

The defendant faced a life sentence. Beltran arranged a deal under which he was sentenced to 20 years and agreed to be deported at the end of the sentence, the suit says.

In court filings, the defendants said Beltran failed to prove a case of any conspiracy to defame him.

Beltran filed the lawsuit in August just before the primary.

Last month, according to a stipulation for dismissal of the lawsuit, both sides agreed to a "confidential settlement" under which each side would pay its own attorney's fees. The stipulation doesn't provide any other details of the settlement.

Beltran refused to comment on the settlement. The defendants and their attorney didn't respond to messages seeking comment.

The campaign was part of a Republican primary season with what local political insiders said was an unusual amount of negative campaigning, much of it involving Pedicini clients.

Local student new president of Mass. College Democrats

Hayley Fleming of Temple Terrace, a rising junior at Amherst College, has just been elected president of the statewide College Democrats of Massachusetts.

Fleming is a music and political science major, and the daughter of John Fleming, a creative writing teacher at the University of South Florida, and Julie Fleming, a kindergarten teacher.

She said the Massachusetts College Democrats organization has 600-700 members and chapters at 25 schools in Massachusetts, including most of the state's big-name schools — Harvard, MIT, Boston College, three campuses of the University of Massachusetts and others.

Fleming said her father shares her interest in politics, but neither of her parents has been formally involved. She decided to go into politics after she and her father attended the 2017 Women's March in Washington.

"We had tickets to go to what we hoped would be the inauguration of our first female president," she said, "but when Trump won we decided to use those tickets to support women's rights in another way."

After she graduates, Fleming said she wants to go to Washington — "I want to find a way to use government to help people."

Asked whether she wants to come back to Florida, she said she doesn't know.

Alvarez not interested in D59 state House seat

Despite weeks of rumors, prominent Tampa Hispanic Republican Danny Alvarez isn't interested in the District 59 state House seat — but a circuit judgeship might be another matter.

"Baloney," Alvarez said when asked about D59, which he said wouldn't fit with his career and family status right now.

Two Republicans, Mike Owen and Melissa Haskins, have already filed to challenge Democratic D59 Rep. Adam Hattersley, who nabbed the long-time GOP-held seat in 2018.

But because of retirements, there will be an unusual number of judicial races on the 2020 Hillsborough ballot.

"I'll be making that decision in a couple of weeks," Alvarez said of running in one of them.

A former Army parachutist who started his own law firm, Alvarez is now chief spokesman for the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office and an adjunct business law instructor at the University of Tampa. He has served on the county Children's Service Advisory Board and the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority and been Bay Area Hispanic political director for former Gov. Rick Scott.

Reddick to file for commission seat

Former City Council member Frank Reddick, long expected to run for the District 3 county commissioner's seat, says he plans to file next week.

Two other candidates, Sky White and Gwen Myers, have already filed for the seat, which is bring left open by term-limited Les Miller. The open seat could attract more candidates as well.

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