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Crist attack ad draws an angry reply from Dyer

By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 30, 2002

Less than a week after chastising his opponent for "going negative," Republican attorney general candidate Charlie Crist launched a television commercial accusing Democratic state Sen. Buddy Dyer of helping criminals and corporations instead of consumers.

The ad, which began running statewide Tuesday, accuses Dyer of allowing HMOs to eliminate mammogram coverage, criminals to sue innocent victims, and companies, including a client of Dyer's law firm, to police their own hazardous waste spills.

"The attorney general is supposed to be on our side. Unfortunately, Buddy is on theirs," the ad says.

Dyer called the commercial "sad, pathetic and a lie" and said he has "initiated proceedings" to get television stations across the state to pull the plug. He said he's keeping open the possibility of further legal action.

"Charlie Crist has now decided the only way he can win is to lie about my record," Dyer said. "These ads are false and should be taken off the air."

Crist drew a difference between his ad and the one Dyer runs that quotes editorial boards calling Crist unethical and incompetent. Crist has called those ads false and misleading.

"This isn't going negative. It's going accurate," Crist said. "It's important for people to know who, as attorney general, will fight for them."

The Crist ad tells voters that Dyer sponsored a bill allowing HMOs to eliminate coverage of some services required by law, such as mammograms. Dyer sponsored the bill, which he said might help the state's uninsured get some basic coverage. But he never expected it to go far and described it at the time as a "nuclear warhead I'm throwing out there to get the discussion started."

Allowing criminals to sue is a reference to the state's 1999 law that restricted damages awarded to companies when they are sued over defective products. Dyer, like many Democrats, voted against the final version of the bill, saying it protected corporations at the expense of individuals. He supported an earlier version.

The bill had a provision giving homeowners immunity from lawsuits by people trespassing on their property with the intent to commit a crime.

Dyer rejected the HMO and criminal lawsuit parts of Crist's ad in a news release Tuesday. But he remained silent on the hazardous waste bill.

Dyer sponsored bills in 1996 and 1997 that could have helped Georgia-Pacific, a client of his law firm, avoid state pollution penalties at a time the company was being sued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The bill would have protected industrial companies from some state fines and lawsuits if they voluntarily reported hazardous spills. The measure did not pass.

-- Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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