Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
Reporter James L. Rosica covers state government from the Tribune's Tallahassee bureau. Email
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State Senate Mud War Hits New Lows
Posted Nov 2, 2006 by William March
Updated Nov 2, 2006 at 04:48 PM
The race for state Senate D16—Jim Sebesta’s seat, which crosses Tampa Bay to include South Tampa and St. Petersburg—is one of the most competitive in the state, and therefore, predictably, has turned into a stew of negative ads.
But Democrats, who have taken plenty of shots at Republican candidate Kim Berfield, are outraged at her latest shot at their candidate, Charlie Justice.
The ad basically says he’s a legislative friend of child molesters. Even in this mudfight, that’s getting down there.
“Charlie Justice voted against requiring background checks for school employees with access to our children.” the ad says. “Parents are very upset ... Charlie Justice—so liberal he puts the rights of predators above the safety of our children.”
Women who appear to be mothers, but aren’t identified, add comments like, “Explain that to my children” and “With all the horror stories out there ...”
Considering Justice and his wife—a teacher—have two young daughters, it’s kind of a shocker.
In fact, Florida has long had requirements for background checks. Justice did vote against a 2004 bill that would have expanded them. He said he voted for the same thing in other legislation, and opposed this bill because it would have made teacher’s home and email addresses public records, for what he called political purposes.
“You would think there’s a line of decency somewhere in political advertising,” Justice said. “When you politicize the safety of children, that’s something that sends a chill up your spine.”
Berfield spokeswoman Sarah Bascom responded, “The ad is based on fact, on his own voting record. If Mr. Justice wants to discuss misleading ads, we’d be happy to hear from him to answer to the series of blatant fabrications and misrepresentations of Kim Berfield’s fundraising and voting record.”
—Justice was one of only four House members to vote no on the bill, which passed both houses by large majorities and was enacted.
—Bascom said the women speaking in the ad are not actors but real parents. She said she didn’t have their names but would try to find them.