Every election cycle, it’s the same. We get to the last month before the primaries, and the otherwise-boring political season of predictable slogans and policy proposals melts into a fiery inferno of traded barbs.
Like heat-sensing missiles, mail pieces and media fill the air, delivering blows and, ultimately, what most people hope for: the knockout.
It’s always interesting to see who fires first, how the opponents respond, and how the one who fired first tries to deny responsibility. It has become a farce.
Consider what happened in Florida House District 15 last week.
Republican candidates Jay Fant and Paul Renner are vying to replace term-limited Rep. Daniel Davis in the Jacksonville-area district.
In June, Fant challenged Renner to sign a clean-campaign pledge. Renner responded within a day or two, and they worked out the terms for what seemed like a good compact.
Well, here we are with three weeks to go, and all hell has broken loose. At the end of last week, the Better Florida Fund Corp. delivered a karate-chop mailer, criticizing Fant for the way he handled his family banking business during the recession. Every community bank in Florida had difficulty during the recession, so no big deal, right?
Not the way the Better Florida Fund sold it, using the most lurid vocabulary to try to make Fant out to be nothing short of Bernie Madoff.
Disappointing tactics, but that’s the way the cards are played.
But then the fun began. Fant issued a strongly-worded statement accusing Renner of breaking his pledge to run a clean campaign. Renner insisted the mailer was the work of the Better Florida Fund, not him, and that Fant was breaking their pledge by accusing Renner of the assault.
Who’s right? BizPac Review did some digging.
According to the Florida Times-Union, Renner hired gunslingers Marc Reichelderfer and Brian Hughes to run his campaign last year.
Reichelderfer has a good reputation as a capable consultant, despite a recent bump in the road as a star witness in the redistricting trial.
The Better Florida Fund is basically a subsidiary political committee for the Florida Medical Association — the association is the only donor, and its president is the registered agent — and the doctor group did endorse Renner.
But unless you checked the lobbyist directory, you wouldn’t know that Reichelderfer is also a paid lobbyist for the Florida Medical Association. BizPac Review’s Tallahassee sources confirmed that for a long time, the medical association has taken much of its political direction from Reichelderfer.
BPR is no stranger to how these independent committees work, so we are quickly calling baloney on Renner’s insistence that he was not involved in the Fant attack.
Surely, there will be retaliatory attacks on Renner, but at least for now, Fant has the high ground.
Renner’s denials of involvement raise questions about his honor or intelligence. He’s either lying, or his campaign is being controlled solely by his consultants.
Neither scenario would sit well with conservatives.
Good luck on the response, Mr. Fant.
We will continue to watch this race and others around the state to help sort out the details.
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