By Jim Bleyer
A year ago significant others Yvonne Fry and Mark Ober sat on top of Hillsborough County’s political world. He: a four-term state attorney heavily favored for a fifth. She: a politically ambitious civic activist and a district favorite to win an open legislative or county commission seat.
Then a double whammy crashed the party: the county’s ill-fated Go Hillsborough initiative and endorsements from the immensely unpopular Tampa Bay Times.
The power couple lost all its juice.
A third loser: the Times whose editorial endorsement is a millstone for candidates running in Hillsborough County and whose credibility has hit the skids in its home county of Pinellas. It was the newspaper’s first candidate endorsement since its editorial stance tilted Republican more than three months ago.
0 for 1.
With last night’s defeat to Lawrence McClure in a special primary election for the GOP nomination to succeed retiring State Rep. Dan Raulerson, Fry joins Ober in hitting the bricks. Ober lost a hard-fought campaign by one percentage point to political newcomer Andrew Warren last year. That outcome was properly characterized as an upset.
McClure won in a heavily Republican district but he will go on to face Democrat Jose Vazquez, Libertarian Bryan Zemina, and no-party candidate Ahmad Hussam Saadaldin in the general election Dec. 19.
This despite the Times headline: “Lawrence McClure wins House District 58 seat“ that has stood for more than 12 hours. We assume it will be corrected by a copy editor this morning after his third cup of coffee.
The reign of the Times’ new pro-right wing “investors” has been marked by inaccuracy, omissions, and slanting of articles on news pages to the point that the Times makes a mockery of journalism.
The winner scored 55 percent of the vote in a race many, including the Times, term as an upset but really wasn’t. Inside polling showed McClure up by 7 points eleven days before the election with all key indicators trending his way.
Ober and Fry, the initial betting favorites in their respective races, were torpedoed by charges of deceit. In each case the Tampa Bay Times, who endorsed both losers, failed to report instances of coverups and conflicts of interest. Social media, blogs, neighborhood forums, and mailers disseminated the salient information to voters.
From her campaign’s outset Fry was perceived as elitist and entitled. As the electorate soon learned, she was also deceitful. Fry supported a $3 billion countywide sales tax hike for the Go Hillsborough light rail system, kryptonite in her conservative east Hillsborough district.
She tried to cover up her pro-tax stance last year by deleting a Facebook post reflecting it. Quotes from Tampa Bay Beat’s screenshot of the deletion were included in pro-McClure campaign mailers.
Both Fry and the Times, who withheld information from the electorate, labeled the pro-McClure mailers as “dirty tricks.” Without those mailers and social media, District 58 voters would not be privy to all the facts.
Fry and the Times are still crying after the race. Welcome to the NFL, rookies.
Ober rubberstamped Sheriff David Gee’s absolution of county commissioners Sandra Murman and Ken Hagan, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, county staff, and public relations consultant Beth Leythem of violating Government in the Sunshine laws during the procurement of a $1.35 million contract to promote the Go Hillsborough initiative under the guise of information gathering.
The state attorney should have recused himself from the investigation as Fry was a vocal advocate of Go Hillsborough. Sources informed Tampa Bay Beat that Fry actively sought the Go Hillsborough public relations contract eventually awarded to Leythem.
Ober paid the price in the 2016 general election.