In a political season that's been rife with name calling and mud slinging, the latest target appears to be Brandon attorney Gail Gottlieb, the Democratic candidate for the State House District 59 seat.
The Republican Party of Florida has blanketed the district with a flier linking Gottlieb to "radical" groups including the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The campaign literature features photos of bomb-throwing terrorists and threatening demonstrators with the banner: "Gail Gottlieb - Way Too Liberal, Way Too Extreme, Not One of Us" and the tag: “Gail Gottlieb is trying to bring her radical chaos to Eastern Hillsborough County.”
Gottlieb is running against Riverview attorney Ross Spano, R-Riverview, for the District 59 seat that includes portions of Brandon, Riverview, Valrico, Tampa and Temple Terrrace.
The flier states it was paid for by the Republican Party of Florida.
“It offends me that the Republican Party, on behalf of my opponent, is portraying me as a terrorist for standing up for the middle class and small businesses and wanting to end corruption in Tallahassee,” said Gottlieb. “People can have honest differences of opinion about how best to serve Floridians, but this is the kind of inflammatory campaigning that has turned so many people off of politics.
“This mailer is disgraceful and offensive, and is a bigoted attack against a strong woman candidate who has thoughtful ideas to improve the quality of life of the people of Brandon, Riverview, Valrico, and all of Florida,” said Chris Mitchell, chairman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party. “Campaigns can be tough, but the Republican Party of Florida is way out of bounds in this despicable effort to slander a qualified woman leader.”
In the end, though, Gottlieb believes the tactic will backfire.
“I grew up in Brandon and know that the voters of eastern Hillsborough County are good people who want leaders with ideas, not candidates who focus on throwing mud,” she said. “My goal is to represent all the people of District 59, to listen to those with opposing views and to focus on building a strong economy with good schools, transportation, and other services for the families of my community.”
Gottlieb, who has been endorsed by both The Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Bay Times, grew up in Brandon and graduated from Brandon High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from Boston College and her law degree from the Washington College of Law at The American University.
She said she is committed to building a stronger and fairer economy for all Americans, improving standards and outcomes for students and promoting higher ethical standards in Florida’s state government.
Her opponent, likewise, grew up in the Brandon area and graduated from Brandon High School. He went on to attend the University of South Florida and Florida State University. He's been endorsed by former Gov. Jeb Bush and the National Rifle Association.
On the surface, Spano's platform doesn't differ much from Gottlieb's.
"I’ve seen our community grow from a small farming and citrus grove town to the active and diverse community it is today," said Spano. "Even though our population has grown, we’ve kept our small town character."
Spano said he's running for office because he wants to ensure the same quality of life for his four children my reducing burdensom state regulations and crippling taxes for small business owners and individuals, eliminating wasteful government spending and by giving students and their teachers the tools them need to succeed.
However, it's Gottlieb's background that the Republican Party is now taking to task.
It points to her involvement with such organizations as the National Farm Worker Ministry, the National Treasury Employees Union to Boat People SOS, a provider of legal and case-management services for victims of labor and sexual exploitation, and the Washington office of Public Agenda, a nonpartisan think tank, which the Republican Party characterized as "ultra-liberal."
The Republican Party also noted Gottlieb's campaign contributions from such organizations as the AFL-CIO, the Florida Consumer Action Network, the Sierra Club, the Teamsters, and the National Women's Political Caucus.
"They're legitimate organizations that stand up for the environment, consumers and workers," Gottlieb said. "There's nothing radical about them. It's ridiculous that they have too stoop this low. It's just too much."
Spano was unavailable for comment at press time.
When contacted, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Florida headquarters said the flier was produced and distributed by the Florida Republcan Party but referred Patch to Spano for comment.
Hillsborough County Republican state committeeman A.J. Matthews said he had not seen the flier.