Ronda Storms said she can take the mudslinging that is a part of running for public office. It’s just the way the game is played.
But the Valrico Republican, who is running to succeed Ross Spano in HD 59, will not, not, not stand for the charge in a recent mailer that she voted for President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package while she served in the state Senate.
No way, no how.
That’s exactly what a mailer from her opponent, Brandon businessman and U.S. Army veteran Joe Wicker, charges though. And that’s why Storms went on her campaign Facebook page to, as she put it, “set the record straight.”
In a video that was straight talk and defiant as ever, she called the allegation “patently false” and, for emphasis, added, “I never — no, never — voted for President Obama’s stimulus package.”
She said she had the documents to prove it.
Her opponents, after this column was first posted earlier Wednesday, produced a record from her vote on the time in question, showing she voted “Y” for yes on the budget. That vote, by the way, was 39-0 with one abstention.
I reached out to her by phone and she had more to say.
I caught her at Wednesday night church services.
“That was not a vote for the budget,” she said. “It was a vote to begin the negotiation process (with the House). The state had not even applied for the Obama stimulus yet. They’re trying to say I was John Kerry — I voted for it so I could vote against it. In that instance, you’re not voting for it, you’re voting to start the negotiating process.”
The stimulus eventually was woven into the state budget. It seems like a leap of Olympian proportions to say a procedural vote was an endorsement of the stimulus package.
But that’s politics today. Maybe that’s what is wrong with politics today.
“These (attacks) have been going on since Aug. 1,” she said. “They must have polled and must have found I’m in the lead. Otherwise, they’d leave me alone. When they attack you personally, it just means they don’t have a political argument.”
One mailer is Photoshopped to show her lounging on an easy chair beside a back of potato chips, implying that she is, in her words, “sitting around on my duff.”
Actually, what she is doing is going door-to-door, shaking lots of hands, and reveling again in her image as a political outsider — which, well, she is.
Storms is attempting a political comeback after being out of office since 2012 when she left the Senate to run for Hillsborough Property Appraiser unsuccessfully. But she probably is best known locally for her tumultuous eight years on the Hillsborough County Commission.
She was outspoken against gay rights, pushed successfully for the county to stop funding Planned Parenthood, and generally was a quote machine before, during and after meetings.
Her decision to run for Spano’s seat caught many by surprise as she had stayed relatively low-key since losing the property appraiser’s race.
She acknowledges that her opponent is favored by the local Republican Party — although, it should be noted, Spano withdrew his endorsement of Wicker after Storms got into the race.
Can she win?
It won’t be easy.
Wicker is a fresh face with a compelling story, a small-business owner endorsed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He recently took some time off the campaign trail to tend to his family after his wife delivered the couple’s second child.
Ronda Storms, after all the political wars she has been through, is not a fresh face.
But the people who like Storms in eastern Hillsborough County really, really like her. She listens to their concerns and cares about neighborhood issues. As a senator, she pushed for intelligent design to be taught in public schools, and she didn’t care if a lot of people thought that was nuts.
Let’s also just say that flamboyant politicians seem to be in vogue these days.
But can she win?
The odds say no.
But she does have a point. Why would her opponent be attacking like this if there wasn’t at least a bit concern?
We’ll find out how much of that concern was merited next Tuesday when the vote totals come in.