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    TV ads in attorney general's race pack more punches

    By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 26, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- With the race tight and the clock running out, the two candidates for Florida attorney general are getting increasingly hostile.

    For proof, turn on the TV.

    In an ad for Democrat Buddy Dyer, a grainy, black and white photo of Charlie Crist alternates with newspaper clippings while a voice booms: "The Orlando Sentinel says Crist is unqualified. It's as simple as that." The ad ends with a punch: "Charlie Crist: unqualified, unethical, incompetent. Are these really the qualities we want in our next attorney general?"

    Crist quickly responded this week with an ad bemoaning Dyer's attack and touting his own record.

    "Buddy Dyer is filling the airwaves with negative ads," Crist says in his own ad, as a frame from Dyer's commercial is shown. "They are misleading, and they are false. This year, say no to negative ads."

    Dyer said there's nothing misleading about his ad. He said he's simply repeating what some newspapers have written.

    "We're just quoting the opinions of the editorial boards across the state. We pulled from two or three, but every one of the editorials said the same thing," Dyer said. He has won the endorsement of the state's major newspapers, including the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune.

    Crist's ad, paid for by the state Republican Party, reminds voters of his record in the state Senate and as state education commissioner. .

    The ads are similar to themes that arose during last week's debate in Tampa, which was filled with dueling accusations of ethical lapses and personal attacks.

    Dyer has presented himself as an exceptionally bright attorney who was editor-in-chief of his law review and scored the highest on the Florida Bar Exam when he took it. He reminds people that he passed the exam on his first try, while Crist needed three.

    Crist says he already has served in statewide office and tells voters he also went to the same law school as Leroy Collins, one of Florida's most respected governors.

    And Crist is a beneficiary of the American Taxpayer Alliance, which is running pro-Crist ads in several areas. Dyer said the same group ran ads against California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, and he called on Crist to reveal who is financing the group. But Crist said he hasn't seen the commercials and doesn't know who's behind the group.

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