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Republicans killing their own; ‘go negative to win’

  • Sarasota
  • Opinion
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You know the saying: All is fair in love, war and politics. 

That means anything goes — lies, insults, chicanery; sleazy, out-of-context twisting of truth; generally despicable behavior, means and methods; and dark PAC money paying for utterly nasty TV ads and mailers.

This has been going on since the 1796 presidential campaigns of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. And unfortunately, while this approach has been the accepted course in Manatee County politics, it’s now flowing south into Sarasota County, with Republicans in both counties tearing each other down, trying to kill their own.

The campaign of appointed Sarasota County Commissioner Neil Rainford is relentlessly smearing his District 3 Republican opponent, former Sheriff Tom Knight — thanks to the work of the master of truth twisters, political consultant Anthony Pedicini.

The Rainford-Pedicini craftiness is labeling Knight as a liberal and weak on Black Lives Matter, immigration and abortion, with snippets and soundbites purposefully devoid of context. 

Sadly, even Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman, whom Knight backed for the job, is in a fact-abbreviated, contextless video disparaging Knight. 

(Note to readers: Before you believe anything, remember, there is always more to a story and background facts that explain the “why.”)

To be expected, in turn, a political action committee supporting Knight has responded with its own mailers, labeling Rainford a toady for developers (albeit with facts on his voting record).

It’s going to get worse as the campaigns approach the Aug. 20 primary. Voters can expect the flow of negative sludge to approach flood levels. These days, in fact, it’s an accepted political maxim: If you want to win, you have to go negative.

And you can be sure the negativity will be flooding mailboxes, TV ads and social media for the local Manatee elections and a few Sarasota County elections in large part because of the influence of Pedicini. 

In addition to Rainford, Teresa Mast, candidate for the District 1 County Commission seat, has engaged Pedicini. And in Manatee, he practically owns the market. His clients for this election include Manatee County Commission candidates Kevin van Ostenbridge, Steve Metallo and April Culbreath; supervisor of elections candidate James Satcher; and House District 72 candidate Bill Conerly.

In addition, Pedicini also represents four other incumbent Manatee County commissioners (not on the ballot): Amanda Ballard, Mike Rahn, Ray Turner and Jason Bearden — altogether five of the six Manatee commissioners.

And just to give you a sense of the influence Pedicini has on his clients, he is advising his client-candidates never “ever” speak to the Observer “because you guys are markedly anti-free market and anti-growth.” 

Pedicini told us he objects to an Observer candidate questionnaire because too many of the questions focused on the candidates’ positions on growth and zoning. He told us on July 2 the questionnaire was “decidedly meant to maim the, quote, ‘paid-for developer’ candidates. It’s totally aimed at killing them … I’m going to tell my candidates it is dangerous to interface with your organization.”

Rainford and Mast have not responded to Observer requests for information.

All of this is why so many of us recoil in disgust at politics; distrust politicians and their handlers; and want to take a shower after being around them. 



Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh is the CEO and founder of Observer Media Group.

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