Mitch Perry Report 8.18.14: Political consultants think Eastern Hillsborough voters are pretty stupid

Eastern Hillsborough is easily the most socially conservative part of the vast county, but there are a sizable number of Democrats out there who believe that credible moderate candidates have a chance. No doubt the Republican Party of Florida was worried about that during the last 10 days of the 2012 campaign, when they feared that Democrat Gail Gottlieb might pull off an upset in the House District 59 seat race against Republican Ross Spano. Gottlieb was endorsed by the Tribune and the Times, and looked like she might have the right stuff to pull off an upset in the district that encompasses Brandon, Valrico and Riverview.

So the RPOF sent out an incendiary mailer that labeled her work with the Sierra Club "radical," with a photo associating that group and others like the AFL-CIO with terrorism. 

It was "outrageous," in Gottlieb's words, and it certainly worked, as Spano won the seat in a close contest.

GOP consultants are now in a death match in the Hillsborough County District 4 GOP race for County Commission, where Janet Dougherty is facing former Tampa Police Officer Rick Cochran and school board member Stacy White. The Tampa Bay Times' Will Hobson reports today that political consultants are going after all three of the Republicans.

White is being attacked in a mailer as being in cahoots with President Obama because he backed superintendent MaryEllen Elia's bonuses during his first term on the school board. Actually he didn't,  and anybody who has followed Dr. White's tenure on the board would have to laugh out loud at the suggestion that he's a liberal of any sort (not that there's anything wrong with that!). In fact, he was endorsed enthusiastically last week by the Florida Tea Party. 

As far as Cochran goes, his crimes against humanity are that he's received money from unions. On Facebook, Eastern Hillsborough conservative activist (and recent addition to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority) Sam Rashid has also blasted Cochran because he donated to centrist Alex Sink's 2010 gubernatorial race, writing, "Sorry, you are the company you keep. You support a left-wing Liberal for the Executive Officer of Florida, you're a liberal. It's that simple."

CL was the first to report last week on the racist mailers being distributed in Eastern Hillsborough on Indian-American School Board candidate Dipa Shah (about whom Rashid told his followers last week, "I hear there is finally a drop coming that portrays her ideology accurately as opposed to what she continues to convey to conservatives"). The Republican from Brandon is being accused of supporting "Indians, Muslims, African-Americans, Hindus and Gays & Lesbians," which is apparently supposed to scare recipients of the mailer and convince them to vote for one of her rivals in the District 6 countywide contest.

Oh, and let's not forget Dougherty - she's being accused of being insufficiently conservative apparently because, Hobson reports, of being supported by Democrats like Charlie Miranda and Ed Turanchik. 

What's it all mean? Most political consultants will tell you that those negative mailers will work. If so, what does that say about their fellow conservatives in Eastern Hillsborough? That you can make outlandish charges and appeal to voters' basest instincts to persuade them to vote in a different direction?

Last week I spoke to Ed Hooper and Norm Roche, both battling each other for the District 2 GOP nomination for PInellas County Commission. Both are urging voters to do their homework and read up on the candidates to know what their true positions on the issues are. Ideally that's what all voters should do, but we know that doesn't happen (especially on races like school board). So consultants can send out these nasty (and in many cases inaccurate) mailers, because they think voters are sort of stupid. Are they? Look, if a consultant honestly believes that you'll believe that Stacy White and Barack Obama are "two peas in a pod," then yeah, they certainly think you are.

In other news…

The campaign to rid our foods of GMO's is gaining momentum, and on Saturday a large group gathered in Ybor City for the Bee Against Monsanto rally. CL's Ashley Whitney reports.

On Saturday a handful of candidates running for House seats in Pinellas County took their case before a group of Libertarians in Clearwater.