Last week, Brandon-based attorney Dipa Shah announced that she had become the first candidate running for a seat on the Hillsborough County School Board this year to raise over $100,000 in advance of this month's primary election. Shah is a first-time candidate running in the ultra-competitive District 6 race, which includes incumbent April Griffin and six other men and women vying for the countywide position.
Whether or not Shah is the favorite in the race is debatable (there haven't been any public polls on the race), but there's no doubt her fundraising prowess has put her on the map, leading to a hit piece sent to Eastern Hillsborough County residencies this weekend accusing her of running to benefit "special interests" and of indoctrinating "our children with their liberal agenda!"
It should be noted that Shah is a registered Republican who has been endorsed by conservative radio talk-show host Bill Bunkley, among others.
The front side of the mailer says "Dipa Shah for Hillsborough County School Board," and underneath that, "JUST SAY NO!" accompanied by a photo of Shah enclosed in a red circle with a line across it, with the phrase "special interests" to the right side of the mailer also enclosed in a red circle with a line across it.
The back side of the mailer includes 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."
And in what clearly appears to be an attempt to appeal to racial prejudices, there's another quote that reads, "Do our conservative values line up with these powerful Ethnic and Special Interest Groups supporting Dipa?" Another quote from the mailer says "just say no to Dipa Shah and these special interests from hijacking our School Board to indoctrinate our children with their liberal agenda!"
Shah is Indian-American whose family moved to Pennsylvania from India when she was a year old.
The mailer came from a group calling itself the Conservative Values Coalition of Florida, with a P.O. box listed in Apopka. There is a Conservative Values Coalition political action committee registered in Florida, but its treasurer, Michael Millner, responded to a call from CL by saying that it had nothing to do with the Hillsborough County school board races, then promptly hanging up before we could ask a follow-up question.
CL has been unsuccessful in attempting to contact Shah for comment.