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Political junkie

Sanchez campaign brings in a tough-guy consultant

By DAVID KARP and BILL VARIAN
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 20, 2003

At Wednesday's Kiwanis Club debate, mayoral candidate Frank Sanchez promised no "personal attacks" on his opponents. But he said attacks on their record are fair.

In a corner of the room, sitting alone with his arms folded, was Sanchez's new political consultant, Joe Johnson.

Johnson joined the Sanchez campaign about a week ago, after a series of missteps earned the candidate weeks of bad press.

Johnson is known for running bruising races. When he managed Jim Davis' run for Congress in 1996, the campaign sent out a flier spreading a false rumor that former Mayor Sandy Freedman endangered the lives of two Tampa police officers. Officers later denounced the ad as a "complete fabrication."

Johnson brushed off questions about his reputation after the debate.

We'll see how the Sanchez campaign changes.

* * *

BLUEPRINT MISSING: City Council Chairman Charlie Miranda has criticized the other mayoral candidates for making vague promises.

But Miranda hasn't provided his own plan for what he would do as mayor. For months, he has promised to release a blueprint for how he would run the city. A platform was promised in November, then December.

On Wednesday, 14 days before voters select a mayor, Miranda said his platform still needs to be edited. "I am behind the time," he acknowledged.

He said the platform wasn't complete because he has been so busy attending City Council meetings, campaigning and producing his own TV ads. Unlike the other candidates, Miranda said he has no paid staff.

"I said I will give it, and I will," Miranda said.

When?

"In due time."

* * *

THE RIGHT THING: The five candidates running for mayor agreed Wednesday that Mayor Dick Greco did the right thing by letting the Gasparilla parade go on as planned Feb. 2, after the space shuttle Columbia exploded.

The candidates didn't have to decide how the city should respond, but each made their own personal calls.

Bob Buckhorn stayed at the parade after saying a prayer. Charlie Miranda, who learned about the explosion with the mayor at the Tampa Yacht Club, boarded the Gasparilla boat and stayed for the pirate invasion. Then he went home. Frank Sanchez, who heard the news at home, attended a party at businessman Don Wallace's house on Bayshore Boulevard. He stayed less than an hour, he said.

Fitness author Don Ardell, who had gone running earlier that day, remained in his high-rise on Bayshore. Pam Iorio stayed home; she said she never intended to go to Gasparilla.

VOYEUR DONOR: One of the contributors who wrote Frank Sanchez a $500 check is Mark Dolan, attorney for the Voyeur Dorm Web Cast, which lets viewers peer into the daily lives of college women.

In April, Sanchez called the city's lawsuit against the Voyeur Dorm a waste of taxpayer money. He said city funds would be better spent fighting prostitution and drug dealing.

Did that stance win Dolan's support?

"Really, it was just straight support for Mr. Sanchez," Dolan said. "The other people who are running have a more parochial view of government. He, I think, has has a more expansive view of government and of the city."

Sanchez said this week he wasn't aware of Dolan's donation.

"I haven't solicited anyone in the adult industry," Sanchez said. "I am not particularly interested in accepting contributions from that industry."

CHAMBER'S VIEWS RULE: The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce mailed out its voter guide this week for the city elections. Remarkably, none of the candidates for mayor or City Council disagreed with the chamber on any issue. Not one.

A few candidates, including Iorio, got asterisks next to their names because it wasn't clear if they agreed or disagreed with the chamber on issues.

Others, including Charlie Miranda, declined to participate.

Miranda does not think the chamber, a nonprofit partially funded by tax dollars, should weigh in on political races.

AD LAUDS GRECO: The people who accompanied Mayor Dick Greco on his controversial trip to Cuba last year have taken out a full-page ad in the weekly La Gaceta promoting his nomination for Hillsborough County's Moral Courage Award.

"Mayor Dick Greco traveled to Cuba knowing that he would face sharp criticism from those with their own agenda upon his return," the ad reads.

"Normally, I believe it's hard to buck a system when you're a part of it," said La Gaceta owner Patrick Manteiga, who went on the trip with Greco. "But I think in this case it did meet the spirit of the award."

In case anyone wonders, the full-page ad was not provided free by Manteiga.

"I don't do comp ads," he said.

-- Got a tip? Call Times staff writer David Karp at 226-3376 or karp@sptimes.com, and staff writer Bill Varian at 226-3387 or varian@sptimes.com.

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