tampabay.com

TV ad takes Storms to task for tardiness, absence at meetings

The ad, which misspells Storms' name, comes as a state Senate race becomes increasingly contentious. Storms shrugs it off.

By BEN MONTGOMERY
Published August 19, 2006


BRANDON - With primaries inching closer, the so far congenial race for Senate District 10 is heating up.

Evidence: a new advertisement airing on WTVT-Ch. 13 that calls into question the attendance record of Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms.

The 30-second spot shows Storms' empty seat during an in-session meeting, then a ticking clock, then a dejected-looking Storms arriving late.

"They say that showing up is half the battle," a narrator says, "but for Ronda Storms, it seems that showing up on time is more than she can handle.

"County records show that Ronda Storms was late for or missed more than 90 percent of her County Commission meetings. ... Is it any wonder that our county property taxes keep going up?

"In the battle to protect bedrock conservative values, Ronda Storms has been missing in action."

Her name is misspelled on the screen at the end of the ad.

The Traditional Values Committee paid for the ad. Records show Steve Vancore formed the 527 organization - a tax-exempt group created to influence elections or nominations - less than a month ago. He's half of VancoreJones Communications, a Tallahassee public relations firm with connections to Tampa trial lawyers.

Vancore said the committee supports traditional values such as "the value of showing up for work on time."

"She's always late," he said of Storms. "If I showed up late for my job like she does, I'd be fired."

He provided the Times minutes from a sampling of County Commission meetings, dating from 2002 to 2005, which suggest Storms was late a lot, but absent only a few times.

Vancore said the committee is not working in conjunction with Storms' opponent, former state Rep. Sandy Murman, but he has known her for years. Murman could not be reached for comment.

Storms' other Republican opponent is Ray Young, a Plant City businessman. The district covers much of eastern Hillsborough County and parts of Polk and Pasco counties.

Storms said Friday she had not seen the ad, but she disputed a claim that she had missed 90 percent of the meetings.

She said she is often late for commission meetings due to family obligations and dealing with the media, but she makes up for it "on the back end," often working on county business well past 6 p.m.

She added that she has voted to reduce property taxes and has "never missed those votes."

Storms said she has had periods of extended absences when her daughter was born seven years ago and when her husband fell ill a few weeks ago. She brushed the attack off as a last-ditch effort before the Sept. 5 Republican primary.

"Start playing Desperado," Storms said. "When you're down and all of your internal polls are showing you losing, you have to do what you have to do, I guess."

Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@sptimes.com or 813 661-2443.