Pinellas County legislative candidates' campaign against Duke Energy Florida has obviously struck a chord in recent weeks, as even Republicans are now bashing on the local power utility.
Duke is mentioned in a new ad on the local airwaves from Pat Gerard, the Democratic candidate for County Commission District 2 seat. In addition to claiming that "Tallahassee Ed" helped the energy company, the ad claims that he raised taxes and fees in the Legislature, "slapped us" with higher insurance phone rates, and made going to college less affordable for Florida students.
CL asked Tom Alte, Pat Gerard's campaign manager, to cite his sources for the charges made in the ad.
Regarding raises taxes and fees on the middle class, Alte cites a 2008 bill in the Florida House (HB 5001) that increased property taxes by $356 million, a 2008 bill that increased school property taxes by over $546 million (SB 2800), and a 2010 bill where Hooper voted for an amendment that stripped a fee reduction from a bill on vehicle registrations. (That would be SB 1436, which nearly the entire legislature supported. Governor Scott was able to restore the fee reduction this year, part of his campaign to cut taxes by $500 million.)
Raising phone bills and insurance: Alte cites Hooper's vote last year that allows Citizens Insurance to circumvent the cap that had prevented Citizens Insurance from raising its rates more than 10 percent a year (SB 1770) and a 2011 vote that removes the Public Service Commission's authority to regulate telecommunication and phone companies, allowing them to raise rates without limits (HB1231).
Regarding Duke Energy, Hooper has received campaign contributions from the investor-owned utility, and like almost everyone else in 2006, supported the now very controversial nuclear cost recovery plan that allows Duke to charge a fee to residents to pay for nuclear power plants that will probably never be built.
And just as Rick Scott is criticizing Charlie Crist for raising tuition in Florida universities, so is Team Gerard going after Hooper's vote in 2007 (SB 2C) to do so. Alte also cites Hooper's support of the state budget in 2012 which raised college tuition at state colleges and cut Bright Future scholarships, though we were unable to track that bill.
"You're dealing with two people [whose] whole campaign is lie, deny and attack," replied Hooper when informed of the new ad, referring to Gerard and Alte.