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Election 2004

Vicious attack ads obscure vital issues in campaign home-stretch

Published October 23, 2004

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TODAY: Hip Hop Summit Action Network Bus Tour 2 p.m., Tropicana Stadium Parking Lot, 1 Tropicana Drive. Headliners will include rap artists Akon and Styllion; ESPN sportscaster and former New York Jet Walter Briggs; Tampa Bay Bucs player Ellis Wyms; and Southern Style rappers Evening Riders, Ace Boon Koon, Black Jack Boys, Kream, and LK & Tom G. Shuttles will transport young voters to early voting locations until 5 p.m. Call 866-0873.

TUESDAY: Meg Ryan and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 6 p.m. , Tampa Theater, 711 Franklin St., Tampa. A discussion on President Bush's environmental policies. Free. Call 595-7314.

WEDNESDAY: Parent Forum on the Pinellas County School Referendum Ballot Question 7 p.m., McMullen-Booth Elementary School, 3025 Union St., Clearwater. Call (813) 884-3782.

It is the worst piece of campaign mail I've seen in 40 years of covering elections.

Hooded terrorists holding guns and grenades stand at the ready and the words "Evil was in her midst and she did nothing" are written across the front of the pamphlet.

It's a product of the Republican National Senate Committee and aimed at former University of South Florida president Betty Castor.

The brochure goes on to say that Castor's "lack of decisive action put Florida's families at risk."


Another one displays a coffin and terrorists burning an American flag.

Her Republican opponent, Mel Martinez, is trying to paint Castor as part of a terrorist movement that surrounded Sami Al-Arian, a former USF professor now awaiting trial on federal terrorism charges.

Allegations about Al-Arian's links to Middle Eastern terrorist groups surfaced while Castor was at USF; he was not charged with a crime until long after Castor was gone.

If you know anything about teacher unions and faculty groups, you probably know how hard it is for a school administrator to fire a teacher who has not been charged with a crime.

And if you know anything about Castor, you know she is less likely to be a terrorist than our purring cats.

Feisty, she can be. But she is not a terrorist.

Castor placed Al-Arian on paid administrative leave but could not legally fire him and says federal investigators would not share information with her.

Whatever happened at USF in 1995 should not dominate a campaign for the U.S. Senate almost a decade later.

We should be talking about access to affordable health care and prescription drugs, Medicare, Social Security, the war in Iraq and all the dozens of issues that affect our lives and our country today.

Mel Martinez might be a nice guy - all of his friends say so. But his campaign advertising says something else.

In the Republican primary it was Martinez who made an outrageous attack on former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, accusing McCollum, who is about as far on the right wing of his party as a human being can get, of cozying up to homosexuals.

Later Martinez blamed it on others working in his campaign.

It's the kind of thing that is happening to one degree or another in dozens of races across the state.

Some of it is being done by these sleazy anonymous political action committees that have registered so late in the game we won't know who gave them money until after the election.

We may never know who some of them are since they are using rented mail boxes as addresses and using names of people we cannot find.

It cheapens the entire election process and leaves voters wondering if there is any honor left in the process.

With all this hate mail painting perfectly decent people as monsters, how can any voter respect those who win election?

This is the time of year when I feel like I'm presiding over kindergarten. Every candidate is squealing about what his opponent is doing. "Make him stop," they plead.

If only I could administer a good spanking and stand them all in the corner.

We should know by now to disregard anything we hear and a lot of what we see in the final two weeks of any campaign.

Throwing away your political mail and ignoring television commercials will help you focus on how to vote.

Do take advantage of early voting.

It's easier, probably quicker and it will allow you to vote with far less cluttering of your mind.

And when you get those last-minute telephone calls from various campaigns you can shut them up by saying: "You're too late, I already voted."

I am hoping for landslides on Nov. 2 - doesn't matter who wins, just let the margin of victory be large enough to avoid recount city.

We've been there and it isn't pretty.

[Last modified October 23, 2004, 04:24:40]

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