A vicious attack mailer, an eyebrow-raiser, against former Florida Senate President Tom Lee hit mailboxes this week in Senate District 24, and among politicos in the state capital especially, it's still causing a stir.
The direct-mail piece -- described by Tampa-area blogger Peter Schorsch on his website SaintPetersblog.com as, “The attack piece on Tom Lee that has everyone buzzin,’" – juxtaposes Lee with sex-scandal-embroiled Hillsborough Property Tax Appraiser Rob Turner in an attempt to capitalize on the widely-reported misdeeds of the tax appraiser. The mailer uses Lee's marriages as ammunition to suggest a birds-of-a-feather comparison.
Said one Tallahassee political insider on Wednesday, “I don't have a dog in the District 24 hunt, but this is one of the most underhanded and dirty hit mailers I've ever seen."
The mailer includes a reproduction of a fractured wedding photo, mentioning Lee's 2001 divorce, claiming he had an affair with a gaming industry lobbyist -- an allegation Lee has categorically denied.
"There is an understood rule in politics that families are off limits and the recent attacks on Republican Senate candidate Tom Lee in Hillsborough County have undoubtedly crossed that line," said RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry in a written statement on Tuesday.
Curry was also referring to a letter from lobbyist Marc Dunbar. Dunbar's clients include gaming interests, some of whom have a fractious history with Lee. The letter paints a picture of Lee as a "pro-gambling moderate" who befriends liberal Democrats.
The direct-mail piece is the latest example of how political committees are heating up targeted Senate races this election cycle, due to the enormity of their implications on the chamber's leadership. Republicans could see as many as 10 new senators added to their caucus, representing a large new voting bloc with the potential to determine the Senate leadership outcomes post-Don Gaetz and Andy Gardiner.
The Lee hit piece was produced by The American People Committee Inc., a Florida Committee of Continuous Existence (CCE), whose chairwoman is powerful Tallahassee lobbyist Kenya Cory. Of note, under Florida elections law, this type of advertising is allowed for Electioneering Communication Organizations (ECOs) but not for CCEs.