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Progressive Democrats denounce Cindy Stuart for attack ads, conservative endorsements

Conservative firebrand Terry Kemple sent an email blast touting Stuart.

Local Democratic leaders have called on Cindy Stuart to denounce several conservative endorsements and negative mailers targeting her opponent Kevin Beckner in the race for Hillsborough County Clerk of Court. In their plea, they also urged Democratic endorsers to rescind their support.

In a recent mailer put out by Impact Florida, a PAC with ties to political consultant Chris Mitchell, Beckner is called a “desperate career politician” who will “push a radical agenda.”

Mitchell, who has given $250 to Stuart’s campaign, is the PAC’s chairperson and treasurer. The PAC, although receiving contributions from several prominent progressive committees like Flippable, has also raised thousands from sources including charter school interests, real estate development and construction interests.

In another mailer from Impact Florida, Stuart boasts endorsements from current Clerk of Court Democrat Pat Frank, as well as endorsements from the Tampa Tea Party, United Christians of Florida and conservative Christian radio show host Bill Bunkley.

The mailers appear to target GOP voters, according to a report from the Tampa Bay Times, which endorsed Stuart.

Now, the School Board member is in hot water with several local Democratic leaders.

Former President of the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus, Sally Phillips, publicly criticized Stuart’s acceptance of endorsements from the local Tea Party Chapter.

“WOW! Kevin Beckner’s opponent is touting the Tampa tea party endorsement! #VOTEKevinBeckner at any early voting site through Sunday, August 16,” Phillips wrote in a Facebook post.

The post made to the Hillsborough County LGBTA Democratic Caucus’ Facebook page has garnered 34 comments, and almost a dozen shares from local activists condemning Stuart’s affiliations mail.

Another progressive activist, Susan Smith, wrote Stuart had “sold her soul to the devil.”

Stuart’s support from the right is not new, with one of her first campaign donations being a $1,000 contribution from Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.

Stuart has also received support from controversial, hyper-conservative Terry Kemple. 

Kemple sent an email blast on Aug. 6 announcing his support for Stuart, crediting it to her school board vote to reopen Hillsborough County schools.

Kemple also openly condemned her opponent’s sexuality in the same email.

“Her opponent is Hillsborough’s only openly homosexual (former) County Commissioner, Kevin Beckner. He politicized his position on the BOCC to push his agenda and he will do the same if he wins the Clerk of Court position. Please vote for Cindy Stuart for Clerk of the Court.” 

Stuart has not publicly responded to the email. Stuart also did not respond to Florida Politics’ request for comment. Though she previously told Florida Politics columnist Joe Henderson she didn’t understand “why anyone thinks that’s an unusual strategy.”

“Most people who know me know I’m a Democrat, but they also know I’m a moderate Democrat. I talk to both sides. I can come to the table and have a commonsense conversation about what’s best for our community,” she said at the time.

In response to the recent attack mailers and the Kemple email, Beckner said he is disappointed in his opponent.

“Instead of sharing her vision of what she would do in office, she has chosen to use lies and toxic rhetoric that takes us backward and does not represent human values or our beloved Hillsborough County,” Beckner said in a statement to Florida Politics. “Accepting dark PAC money and promoting the support of hate-filled residents like Terry Kemple do not represent the best interests of our community.” 

Written By

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at kelly@floridapolitics.com.

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