Hillsborough County school board candidate Dipa Shah reacts to negative mailer

Hillsborough County School Board candidate Dipa Shah broke her silence today regarding that attack mailer that was sent to households in the county last weekend, that accused her of being opposed to "traditional values."

"I entered the school board race hoping to improve the education and opportunities for the children of Hillsborough County," Shaw said today at a press conference in downtown Tampa. "People support me because they agree that I am an unbiased voice, whose only concern is to improve student education and their opportunities," she added, reading from a prepared text.

"The United States of America is the greatest country because of the freedoms that we enjoy," continued Shah, an Indian-American whose family left India for the U.S. when she was just one year old."The Constitution gives every American the freedom of speech. Abraham Lincoln, in the closing statement of the Gettysburg Address, said our government is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

The back side of that mailer included a quote from an alleged Shah supporter that says,"Latinos, Indians, African-Americans, Muslims, ... Hindus and Gay & Lesbian [sic] ... is in full support of Dipa," followed by a poster with the words "traditional values" printed on it being ripped in half by a sword that reads, "Special interests."

The mailer was produced by a group calling itself the Conservative Values Coalition of Florida. A representative from a group whose name is closely associated, the Conservative Values Coalition, strenuously denied any association with the mailer.

Eastern Hillsborough County conservative activist Sam Rashid posted on his Facebook page last week,"watch mailbox on Monday, I hear there is finally a drop coming that portrays her ideology accurately as opposed to what she continues to convey to conservatives." He has not returned CL's call for comment.

Shah says she has no idea who would want to attack her in a mailer, or why. "My positions are clear and have not changed throughout my campaign since I entered this race," she says, which includes maintaining her opposition to imposing Common Core standards, a position embraced by both conservatives and liberals these days. "I want to ensure that Hillsborough County schools continue to have local control over curriculum. I pledge to work to ensure that the funds and the resources reach the classroom, and that all students share equally in the distribution. That's what I've said all along."

Shah did not immediately react when the mailer was distributed last weekend, and appeared to be ill at ease in even talking about it during her press conference, held at Joe Chillura Park in downtown Tampa. "It is part of politics," she said, "but I really want to stay focused on the children." She said she didn't know if the content of the mailer was racist.

The District 6 countywide race has the most candidates of any contest on the ballot in Hillsborough County this month. Early voting began today throughout the county. Shah has raised the most funds, but she's running against incumbent April Griffin and two other candidates — Paula Meckley and Allison Fernandez — who have received the endorsements of the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times, respectively.

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