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    TV stations not ready to pull Crist's anti-Castor ad

    Network affiliates are asking both sides in the Senate campaign to back up their claims.

    By TIM GRANT

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2000


    TAMPA -- It appears unlikely that television stations will stop running an ad that criticizes Democrat Kathy Castor for a disputed connection with a troubled nursing home company.

    Castor, who is running for state Senate District 13, has asked two law firms to help her stop a political ad that praises her Republican opponent Victor Crist for improving nursing homes while criticizing her because her former law firm "represented nursing homes guilty of the largest Medicare fraud in history."

    She calls it "an outright lie," but the Republican Party is standing behind the ad, which it produced on behalf of Crist.

    Right now, all four of the network television stations in Tampa Bay have asked both sides to back up their claims, but the stations most likely will keep running the paid political ad until managers are convinced it is false.

    "It could go back and forth until Election Day," said Larry Jopek, sales manager at WFTS-Ch. 28.

    Castor's former law firm, Broad & Cassel, is a paid lobbyist in Tallahassee for Beverly Enterprises. Beverly Enterprises was forced to pay a $175-million fine in a federal fraud case in California. But Castor said her firm did not represent the company in that case, and she never did work for the company.

    "These are real desperate attempts to connect me to something, and I cannot believe they are floating these untruths and falsehoods," Castor said.

    Meanwhile, Castor continues to run her attack ads against Crist.

    In one ad, Crist is criticized for voting against $100-million for new school construction, against patients' rights to sue HMOs and against gun control. Wayne Garcia, a spokesman for the Crist campaign, said Castor has even distorted Crist's face "to make him look demonic."

    "When you look at us enduring four weeks of the same thing she says we did to her, we didn't hire a lawyer. We tried to talk about the issues," Garcia said. "Her issue all along has been to attack Victor Crist."

    Crist has said he voted against the $100-million school construction bill because he backed a measure that was ultimately successful and worth $1-billion for state schools. Crist could not be reached for comment to elaborate on the other votes.

    Crist and Castor are vying for the seat being vacated by state Sen. John Grant R-Carrollwood.

    Castor, a land use lawyer, has said she can bring expertise to the Legislature in this area. She promises to fight for more schools, smaller classes and higher teacher pay. She also wants to improve the relationship between doctors and their patients.

    While Castor has a laundry list of goals, Crist says he has built a proven track record during his eight years representing state House District 60 and his 20 years of volunteer community service in the blighted University of South Florida area.

    In the Legislature, Crist has often focused on law enforcement. He introduced bills including the 10-20-Life sentencing rules and the Three Strikes Violent Felony Offender Act.

    He led a failed Republican attempt to shorten the death row appeals process as well as an unsuccessful GOP attempt to transfer some rule-making powers from the state Supreme Court to Legislators.

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