The race for SD 8 has already taken to the airwaves, but both candidates for the Alachua County-based seat have been sending out mailer after mailer pitching themselves as the best candidate for the job.
As he’s done throughout the election cycle, Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry put out another mailer this week tying his campaign to a Gainesville referendum that would transfer the governance of Gainesville Regional Utilities from the City Commission to a five-member panel appointed by the City Commission.
“What does the Gainesville City Commission want to do instead of lowering GRU rates?” one side of the mailer says, while pulling a quote from Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos about bringing a seasonal ice rink to Gainesville. “Spending $190,000 on a sessional ice rink while residents can’t pay their bills… Seriously?!
“The Gainesville City Commission could change this, but they won’t,” the flipside says. “The Gainesville City Commission has used GRU as a slush fund for too long.”
The GRU referendum has been panned by city commissioners, as well as the area’s only Democratic member of the Legislature, Alachua state Rep. Clovis Watson.
Perry’s and Newberry Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons pushed for the bill putting the referendum on the ballot, but some of the language he’s used in pushing for its passage has been controversial. In particular, calling the payments a “slush fund” for frivolous projects despite the majority of the funds paying for police and firefighter services recently caused the IAFF Local 2157 firefighter union to ban Perry from its union hall.
Perry’s mailer was paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the well-stocked GOP affiliated committee chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano that’s charged with supporting Republican state Senate candidates.
Meanwhile, SD 8 Democratic nominee Kayser Enneking sent out her own mailer dogging Perry for his support of the so-called “toilet-to-tap” bill that would have allowed chemically treated, recycled water to be pumped into the state’s underground aquifer, an effort supporters say will boost the state’s supply of potable water.
“You won’t believe what Keith Perry voted to pump into our drinking water,” the ad reads.
The middle of the frontside features a glass of water with a scratch-off section that, once completed, says “Perry voted to pump sewage water into our drinking water.”
Below the glass, which was mercifully not scratch-and-sniff, the mailer says “Yes, we’re serious and just as grossed out as you.
“Our environment is sick and Tallahassee politicians are only making the water worse,” Enneking says on the flipside, which also touts her endorsement from the Sierra Club.
Enneking’s mailer comes shortly after the Florida Conservation Voters Action Fund announced it was making a $250,000 digital ad buy to hammer Perry over his vote on the “toilet-to-tap” while also attacking SD 24 Sen. Jeff Brandes for voting “to cut red tide funding.”
SD 8 covers all of Alachua and Putnam counties as well as the northern half of Marion County. It is one of a handful of districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the Senate map was redrawn ahead of the 2016 elections.
Despite Democrats holding an 8-point lead in voter registrations in the redrawn district, Perry scored a comfortable victory over two years ago as the seat was narrowly carried by President Donald Trump.
This cycle, Florida Democrats are heavily targeting SD 8 for a flip, and the FRSCC is pumping serious cash into Perry’s defense effort.
As of Sept. 28, Enneking had raised $750,000 between her campaign and committee, and had about $93,000 in the bank thanks to a recent spate of ad buys. Perry has raised $861,000 between his campaign and committee and had $492,000 left to spend through the same date.
Both SD 8 and the GRU question will be on the November ballot.
The mailers are below.