Passing the Buck: Straz gets an election committee, Castor gets thumped by it

Tampa Mayoral Race (3)
Voter turnout in early voting and vote by mail has already surpassed 8 percent.

The Tampa mayoral election is getting tense.

Negative campaigning has started, targeting so far front-runner Jane Castor, philanthropist David Straz, retired judge Dick Greco and City Council member Harry Cohen.

We now know that some of the negative advertisements stemmed from a group affiliated with Straz earlier this month despite his previous point of pride in not having a political committee like most of his opponents.

As the race heats up, voter turnout in early voting and vote by mail has already surpassed 8 percent.

Group behind negative Tampa mayoral race ads is affiliated with Straz” via Florida Politics — Straz brags that he doesn’t have an affiliated political committee. He doesn’t. What Straz does have is an Electioneering Communications Organization (ECO). An ECO is not a political committee, but it is similar. Such groups can accept contributions and make political expenditures, but only on electioneering like television, digital and print advertisements. The campaign confirmed its affiliation with the committee. A digital advertisement popping up online for some Tampa voters paid for by Tampa’s Bright Future shows an unflattering photo of Castor in uniform in front of a downtown Tampa backdrop and a traffic light. Text on the image reads, “Jane Castor. The reason you have red light cameras in Tampa.” Only one candidate has been pushing the idea of banning red light cameras in the city and that is Straz. Castor supports keeping them. The same group also funded a recent television ad that aired on some stations in Tampa attacking Greco over whether or not he lived in Tampa for as long as he said he has.

Jane Castor gets hit with ‘biking while black’ rehash” via Florida Politics — Straz’s newly formed ECO hits Castor over the 2015 Tampa Bay Times “Biking while black” investigation that uncovered a disproportionate number of arrests and civil citations given to African-American residents particularly in low-income neighborhoods over minor biking infractions. “I don’t apologize for the proactive nature of our officers,” the mailer quotes Castor saying from an article in the Times in April of 2015. Castor stood by the agency’s policy at the time but has since said it was a well-intentioned policy that in hindsight, wasn’t a good idea. The front of the mailpiece evokes painful memories of New York City’s controversial “stop and frisk” program in which officers were allowed to detail and pat down people with very little probable cause. “If you were black and low-income and riding a bike, Police Chief Jane Castor wanted you stopped and frisked,” the mailer reads.

Castor surpasses $1 million in fundraising” via Florida Politics — “These numbers reflect the tremendous enthusiasm that Jane’s candidacy has generated throughout the community,” said campaign manager Tim Wagner. Not including Straz, Castor has now raised more than any other campaign in the race combined. That is also assuming fundraising totals current through February 15 and doesn’t take into account funds those campaigns might have raised since, which have not yet been reported. Straz has brought in more than $2.4 million, but almost all of that he contributed from his own personal wealth.

Here’s which politicians Tampa’s mayoral candidates supported with their wallets” via Florida Politics — Cohen, an incumbent City Council member, has the most active giving history. In the past two years, Cohen has cut checks to former Florida Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw, Representatives Jennifer WebbDianne Hart and Adam Hattersley and defeated State Representative candidate Linda Jack. He also donated a total of $600 to defeated gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. Federally, Cohen gave to Congress members Charlie Crist and Kathy Castor as well as other Democratic congressional candidates across the state and the Democratic committee ActBlue. While not as active in his giving, philanthropist Straz has used his wealth to give the most. Over the last two years, Straz donated $15,000 to the local Democratic Executive Committee. Former Tampa Police Chief Castor has also been active in her giving, shelling out $3,000 for Crist and $1,000 for Kathy Castor.

Dick Greco Jr. denies negative campaigning tactics” via Florida Politics — Greco’s written statement does not mention any specifics but comes one day after a Florida Politics report accused Greco of sending a negative text to conservative voters accusing his opponent, Straz, of supporting far-left, extremist views based on support for Gillum. Greco’s campaign said the statement was in response to a different television ad that attacked him. “I firmly believe that the race for Mayor of Tampa is not the place for making false accusations against any opponent and anyone who runs a negative campaign will not run a positive administration,” Greco said. “The voters deserve better. I intend to continue to run a positive campaign focused on moving Tampa forward, putting the people of this community first, and focused on a message of leadership and unity.”

Straz ads to blitz Tampa media markets” via Florida Politics — Television ads will run on all local broadcast channels in Tampa and about a dozen cable channels through Election Day, according to a Straz spokesperson. The ad takes a backhanded swing at the Tampa Bay Times saying, as Straz stands at a desk looking over two newspapers, that he was “endorsed by the newspapers we trust. The two newspapers shown were La Gaceta and the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, which both endorsed Straz. The Tampa Bay Times endorsed Castor for Mayor. Straz repeatedly criticizes the paper for what he sees as unfair coverage of his campaign. He announced earlier this month the Times’ leadership had approached him to invest in the paper as part of a massive bailout, but he declined. The campaign also sent out positive mailers to voters promising to replace the city’s aging ambulance fleet.

Mark your calendar

March 3 — Final day of early voting

March 5 — Election Day. Voters must cast a ballot at their polling place. Polls are open 7-7. Mail ballots can be returned in person until polls close. Find your polling place here.

Early voting info

Early voting locations:

Cyrus Greene Center

2101 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Fred B. Karl County Center

601 E. Kennedy Blvd.

Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library

3910 S. Manhattan Ave.

New Tampa Regional Library

10001 Cross Creek Blvd.

North Tampa Branch Library

8916 North Blvd.

Robert L. Gilder Elections Service Center

2514 N. Falkenburg Rd.

West Tampa Branch Library

2312 W. Union St.

Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. February 25-March 3

What to bring

Please bring one or two forms of identification that include your signature and photo. Without proper identification, you may still vote a provisional ballot, which will later be evaluated by a canvassing board for eligibility. Any of the following forms of photo identification are acceptable:

— Florida Driver’s License

— Florida ID card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

— U.S. Passport

— Debit or credit card

— Military ID

— Student ID

— Retirement Center ID

— Neighborhood Association ID

— Public Assistance ID

— Veteran Health ID issued by the VA

— Concealed Weapon License

— Government Employee ID

If your photo ID does not include your signature, you will be asked to provide another ID that has your signature.

Bring your sample ballot to the polling place with notes on how you plan to vote. By making your voting decisions before going to the polling place, you help keep the lines down.

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Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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