By Jim Bleyer
A pair of Florida House candidates with threadbare resumés are bombarding Tampa Bay voters with transparently fraudulent claims about their opponents.
The actions by Traci Koster and Linda Chaney are widely viewed as last-ditch attempts to resurrect their failing campaigns.
Polls in the past week show both candidates not only trailing but slumping badly since they initiated smear campaigns against Jessica Harrington and Jennifer Webb, their respective opponents.
The repugnant mud-slinging has not just been a turnoff for voters. The Tampa Bay Times, the area’s only daily paper, endorsed both Webb and Harrington.
In District 69, Chaney has been particularly despicable. Her claim that Webb received and spent money from the Paycheck Protection Program PPP) is the most egregious lie of any Tampa Bay political candidate this election cycle where mendacity is rife.
Asked for proof of the outlandish assertion, Chaney comes up empty.The irony of Cheney’s deceit is that Freshman Rep. Webb used her campaign funds, all legitimately raised, to inform businesses and individuals in her district about the federal and state assistance available to them. Thousands were helped by the available government programs.
Chaney, who tries to pass herself off as an environmentalist, missed 18 of 21 meetings as a member of the Barrier Islands Government Council. It was at these meetings that the protection of beaches from offshore drilling was discussed along with flood insurance and disaster management.
Webb earned the “Integrity in Politics” award from the Florida League of Cities in 2019 and 2020. This year, The National Alliance on Mental Illness honored Webb with the Florida Legislator of the Year Award for her advocacy work towards mental health in Pinellas County.
Chaney had 81 ethics violations charged against her while she was on the St. Pete Beach City Commission. The city had to pay more than $4,300 in legal fees defending Chaney from the breach of ethics charges.
Webb’s district encompasses southwest Pinellas including St. Pete Beach, Gulfport, Treasure Island along the coast to Redington Shores and east to Kenneth City.
Koster, an attorney, would be convicted of suborning perjury if she spewed in a courtroom the deceitful drivel that was scattered on the campaign trail. Attack ads on her behalf falsely claim Harrington, a teacher, signed a pledge to defund the police.
The pledge makes no mention of any effort to defund the police but instead promotes seven goals: good jobs, affordable quality healthcare, investing in children, empowering people over special interests, equal opportunity for all, sustainable infrastructure and clean air, water and energy.
A cease-and-desist order was filed by Mark Herron, attorney for the Harrington campaign.
Koster became the Republican nominee in District 64 after incumbent State Representative Jamie Grant resigned Aug. 11 to accept a position as Florida’s chief information officer. Koster made headlines at a Tiger Bay forum, when she declared she wouldn’t support Medicaid expansion because giving too many people access to healthcare would erode quality care.
Tampa Bay Beat then disclosed Koster used a mental health hotline and followup services furnished by the Florida Bar. By virtue of her profession, Koster accessed those tools while declaring she would deny similar services to voters who are not Florida Bar members.
District 64 covers portions of both Pinellas County, including Oldsmar and Safety Harbor, and Hillsborough County, including Westchase and Northdale.