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William March: Fry, McClure battle for conservative label in House race

Yvonne Fry is a Republican candidate for Plant City-centered House District 58. [Courtesy of Yvonne Fry]
Yvonne Fry is a Republican candidate for Plant City-centered House District 58. [Courtesy of Yvonne Fry]
Published Sep. 7, 2017

In right-leaning eastern Hillsborough, Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure are battling for identification as conservatives in the special election to replace Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City.

In one of her first TV ads and in mailers, Fry bolsters her pro-life and pro-Second Amendment credentials, while McClure is using mailers and an ad soon to run to advertise his National Rifle Association "A" rating and support for President Donald Trump.

The two will face each other in a GOP primary Oct. 10, and the winner will be a heavy favorite in the Dec. 19 general election.

One of Fry's first TV ads, running on cable stations targeting women viewers, tells her personal story of deciding against an abortion even though a physician told her a pregnancy could endanger her life.

The result was the birth of her son, now 18.

An abortion "wasn't a choice for me," she says in the ad. "This baby was already alive … My son Arie was born healthy — he's the light of my life," she says in the ad.

Campaign aides said the emotional ad has generated strong reactions, including bringing in volunteers.

On her campaign website, Fry says the Second Amendment "is under attack. I will work at all times to preserve and protect your right to bear arms."

Fry says that's true even though she opposes open carry of weapons and carrying weapons on state university campuses, following the recommendation of law enforcement leaders, who mostly oppose those measures.

But the NRA backs them, and McClure favors both.

Fry has also put out mailers on abortion and guns, using an independent political committee funded largely Plant City Mayor Rick Lott. Lott contributed $25,000 of the $35,500 the committee had raised as of Aug. 31.

McClure said he recently contacted the NRA, gave them information on his stances on gun rights and sought the same kind of rating the organization normally gives to legislators — apparently hoping to emphasize the difference between himself and Fry. He has since has put out a mailer on the rating.

In other mailers, he talks about red-meat conservative points including opposition to the Common Core school curriculum reform effort – an issue the Legislature has already dealt with -- and illegal immigration.

"No sanctuary cities – No amnesty for illegal aliens – Protect Florida from the unchecked Obama-era federal refugee program," says one mailer.

McClure has also produced but hasn't yet broadcast a TV ad linking himself to Republican icon Ronald Reagan, advocating "peace through strength," and to Trump.

It calls Florida "a land that … helped to make America again" while showing a photo of Trump.

McClure said he considers himself a political outsider like Trump, and said, "He's working toward protecting American jobs, the American homeland and the American dream and these are principles I support."

Pam Bondi backs Fry in state House race

State Attorney General Pam Bondi of Tampa has endorsed and cut an ad for Yvonne Fry in the state House District 58 race

The ad is now running on cable stations.

It's probably the biggest name yet among endorsements for Fry, who's campaigning based on her history of civic involvement in east Hillsborough and Plant City, the heart of the district.

Fry said her ties to Bondi began when county Commissioner Al Higginbotham appointed her to the county Commission on the Status of Women, and Bondi subsequently appointed her to the state Commission on the Status of Women.

Fry also announced an endorsement from former county GOP chairman Art Wood of Plant City.

Jack Latvala wins the Nancy Watkins primary

Prominent GOP finance maven Nancy Watkins of Tampa will be treasurer and a supporter of Jack Latvala's campaign for governor, she said this week.

That's not a big surprise. Watkins has handled finances for Latvala's campaigns for years.

But it could add credibility to Latvala's campaign, viewed by some as a dark horse among candidates with more money and name recognition, like Adam Putnam, or fundraising clout, like state House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Watkins and her husband, Robert Watkins, are prominent GOP donors and fundraisers as well as nationally known political finance accountants who work only for Republican candidates and causes.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.