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Joe Henderson: HD 58 campaign takes negative turn

There is a game plan, oft-repeated in politics, that says going negative beats a reasoned argument almost every time. We are seeing that play out again in the HD 58 campaign for the Republican nomination, where mailboxes are being filled with fliers calling Yvonne Fry a closet liberal in Republican clothes.

The primary election to succeed former state Rep. Dan Raulerson is Oct. 10, although early voting has begun. Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons, supports Fry and has donated to her campaign. The primary winner will be favored in December’s general election.

Raulerson had said he would remain neutral, but wryly noted he made that statement when he was still a member of the House.

“I’m a private citizen now,” he said.

The attacks don’t have to be accurate; they just to be attacks, and that appears to be the script here.

Take this for instance: Although she has never been elected to public office, Fry is still mocked in the mailers as a “political insider” because she served on many boards and civic groups in the Plant City area and racked up multiple endorsements. She also is a small business owner, but targeted on that by leaked smears that don’t pass the smell test.

Because she supported a plan that would have put a transportation referendum on the ballot, she is said to be pushing for the largest tax increase in Hillsborough County history. Except, well, that referendum plan never made it to the ballot, and it would be up to the voters anyway.

“I never imagined it would be like this, no,” she told me during a chat last week. “I feel like they’re in a place of desperation. I have heard from so many people who are disgusted by what they are doing.”

The “they” Fry refers to apparently are supporters of her opponent, Lawrence McClure. One mailer says Fry has “joined the ranks of Obama, Clinton and Pelosi in declaring war on the Second Amendment.”

Seriously?

One mailer was self-financed by Doug Guetzloe, an Orlando-based political consultant and anti-tax crusader. He told William March of the Tampa Bay Times that “I’m a good Republican.

Fry says she has been meeting with groups and knocking on doors throughout the district, which covers Plant City and runs into Temple Terrace and the University of South Florida area.

She called the attacks “insulting.”

“I didn’t expect this,” she said. “I met McClure before the race and he assured me he would not go negative.”

The mailers have not come directly from McClure.

The mailers could be a major factor because turnouts traditionally are small in these types of elections. A few votes either way could swing this. While Fry is popular and well-known in Plant City, it’s a bit of a mystery how the USF and Temple Terrace area sees her.

I guess we’ll find out.

“I’m not deterred by this,” Fry said. “I’m not discouraged. I’m resolved.”

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I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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