Nice and nasty does it in politics

Published Jun. 21, 2012

If this happened to be a college civics class on good government, it would be perfectly legitimate to ponder the sorry state of political discourse these days with all the nasty campaign ads, the vicious personal attacks, the reckless misrepresentation of facts and pernicious influence of money.

Horrible. Terrible. Shameful. Tut-tut.

But thank goodness we're not in some ivory tower. Whew! Dodged a bullet there, didn't we?

It was the late Washington doyenne Alice Roosevelt Longworth who once said: "If you can't say something nice about someone, sit right here by me." She would probably love to be around today to observe two especially catty races in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

In the newly drawn state Senate District 22 race, state Rep. Jim Frishe has uploaded a campaign video portraying his opponent, fellow House Republican Jeff Brandes, as an irritating child pretending to be a big-shot politician.

Frishe insists in the spot that he is the real Republican in the race, and just to make sure the point isn't lost on anyone the candidate invokes Ronald Reagan's name four times, in addition to including Reagan twice in a rolling scroll of his political accomplishments and featuring two photographs of Reagan in the background. All of this Reaganmania in just a 30-second spot.

If only Frishe had had more time, he could have shown up in the Gipper's jodhpurs with a jauntily positioned Stetson.

In further accusing Brandes as a ne'er-do-well poseur with all the genuine conservative credentials of Stephen Colbert's alter ego, Frishe suggests his babycakes opponent has "no idea what a real Reagan Republican is."

Frishe might be on to something, but he certainly can't deny that Jeff Brandes has learned a thing or two about hardball politics by pulling a quick switcheroo in dumping his campaign to be re-elected to the House and jumping into the Senate campaign before Frishe could finish watching Bedtime for Bonzo.

And since there is no Democrat in the District 22 race, whoever wins the Aug. 14 primary takes the Senate seat. Just how deft a politician is Jeff Brandes?

Why he is running around in a current commercial claiming he's not a politician, even through he ran and won a House seat in 2010? And now he's chasing after a Senate job, which involves hiring a consultant, a treasurer, begging people for money, handing out yard signs, showing up at events to slum for votes and plotting against Frishe.

Not a politician? That would be like Gen. George Patton denying that despite the uniform, the medals, the stars and all those dead Germans that he wasn't a soldier.

Meanwhile in Hillsborough County, in recent days unfortunate information concerning state Sen. Ronda Storm's recent short sale of a condo as well as the impending denial of a greenbelt exemption for property she and her family owns has been slinking out from the office of Property Appraiser Rob Turner — who when he isn't otherwise engaged in appraising property, seems to enjoy sending out steamy X-rated emails and text messages to former paramours.

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The negative news of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with Storms' decision to run against Turner after salacious details of the property appraiser's wandering keyboard hit the fan. Perish the thought.

If Turner is attempting to suggest Storms isn't qualified to be the property appraiser because of her personal financial and real estate issues, he's completely misreading the dynamics of this race.

Sure, when it comes to property appraising stuff Storms lacks credentials. But this has nothing to do with being an effective property appraiser. It has everything to do with what it takes to be an effective adult.

To be sure, Storms is a bit goofy and more sanctimonious than Elmer Gantry. But she's not creepy, more or less. In this campaign that counts for something.

It is also noteworthy that since Turner was exposed as a serial cad, the property appraiser has opted to campaign via email and text messaging. Then again — ahem — he does have vast experience with mobile communication. And frankly, given Turner's libidinous history, perhaps avoiding pressing too much flesh in person isn't such a bad idea.

It was Saint Reagan who once famously invoked the 11th GOP Commandant: Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican. But that was a very, very long time ago.

Don't you suspect if Reagan was around he might well be thinking to himself: "Where did my party go?"

Then again, if Alice Roosevelt Longworth were observing the local political mosh pit, it be would standing room only.

Class dismissed.