Barclay Harless campaign goes after Brandi Gabbard over PAC spending

Outside money has been an issue in the St. Pete City Council Dist. 2 race; Harless in particular is adamantly opposed.

click to enlarge Barclay Harless campaign goes after Brandi Gabbard over PAC spending
Courtesy of the Barclay Harless campaign

Outside spending in local elections has become something of a flashpoint in St. Pete's 2017 election cycle.

Both mayoral candidates have political action committees, which are spending loads of money trying to steer the election's narrative.

Now, a candidate for a city council seat is crying foul against his opponent ver outside spending. 

Barclay Harless, an executive with Bank of the Ozarks running for the St. Petersburg City Council District 2 seat, is calling his opponent, real estate agent Brandi Gabbard, out for allowing tens of thousands in PAC money to fund mailers on her behalf.

His objections come on the heels of yet another outside expenditure on his opponent's behalf. This time, it's the Pinellas Realtor Organization's PAC that's funded a mailer. The ad highlights endorsements from public safety organizations like the Pinellas County Police Benevolent Association.

Last month, Harless pledged to not accept any PAC money beyond $1,000 as a matter of principle and challenged Gabbard to do the same. She apparently has not.

"Today we received word that another round of Realtor PAC mail — has been sent on behalf of my opponent and paid for by special, outside interests — and is being delivered to St. Pete residents," Harless said in an emailed statement. "I respect my opponent and her desire to run a strong campaign, but she has consistently refused my pledge to reject unlimited outside spending. I made the pledge in September not to allow any spending outside the legal allowable limits for my campaign. I have followed that promise. It was important to me to become an independent member of our City Council, not beholden to outside special interests."

Not that it's illegal at the moment.

St. Petersburg City Council recently passed an ordinance limiting outside influence in local elections, but it does not apply to the current election cycle.

CL emailed Gabbard to respond to Harless's calls, but has yet to receive a reply.

Barclay campaign manager Nick Janovsky, who has managed or consulted on many local campaigns in recent years, said he thinks the outside spending he's seeing in this race is unprecedented that it should be alarming to voters and that recipients of mailers in favor of a particular candidate need to read the fine print in order to see whose interest would be served were said candidate to be elected.

"The Realtor PAC spending in the local St. Pete elections is obscene and we have declined any outside group to spend in this nature on behalf of Barclay," Janovsky said via text. "Tens of thousands of dollars that we know of — for four mailers [that] have hit citywide. This is what's wrong with politics and local elections and St. Pete voters deserve better. I ask all voters to flip their mail over and look who bought and paid for these mailers."

Election Day is November 7. Mail ballots are out and early voting starts Saturday.

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