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What to make of House candidate Jackie Toledo?

in Peter/Top Headlines by

jackie toledo 1Jackie Toledo, the oft-controversial Republican running for Florida House District 60, has a major fundraiser planned for Tuesday.

And while the invitation for the event is studded with dozens of local Republican heavyweights, I’m still not sure what to make of Toledo.

Is she, as I want to believe, the latest in a line of Hillsborough Republican female pols who were initially underestimated by their critics and the media (think Sandy Murman during her stint in the Florida House)?

Or is Toledo, as La Gaceta’s Patrick Manteiga will tell you, a Tampa Bay version of Michele Bachmann (I guess that would make Toledo the second coming of Ronda Storms)?

Toledo had a rocky entry into electoral politics, making a series of errors (forced and unforced) during her 2015 bid for the Tampa City Council.

During that campaign, the Tampa Bay Times reported her campaign was using an image photography experts said consisted of her photo superimposed on Mayor Bob Buckhorn‘s official portrait and that she used video shot without permission on a Florida Department of Transportation construction site in a campaign commercial.

Those miscues barely rose to the level of a misdemeanor, but when a political action committee that attacked her opponents appeared to have connections to her campaign consultant, Anthony Pedicini, the first-time candidate would not be given a second chance to make a first impression.

“The ugliness wasn’t just in the mail,” wrote Manteiga in March 2015. “The campaign was rotten in every aspect … You name it; it happened in this race.”

When Toledo announced she was running for House District 60, most of the state and local Republican establishment lined up behind her primary opponent, Rebecca Smith.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced support for Smith in August, three days after she met with the two at a speech Putnam gave in South Tampa.

But, by almost all accounts of what happened in the HD 60 primary, Toledo feverishly outworked her opponent. Like the other pols mentioned above — Murman, Storms, etc. — Toledo put together a campaign team of dedicated volunteers, pounded on doors, and just out-hustled her opponent.

Toledo also has done her best to avoid talking to the local media, which her camp believes is predisposed against her. She skipped a Tiger Bay appearance. She does not respond to inquiries from this website’s reporters.

“Jackie is too busy being a mother, wife, volunteer, small-business owner, and community advocate to play … childish games,” Toledo spokesperson Ryan Wiggins told FloridaPolitics.com in September. “Her focus is on serving the people of District 60 and winning an election, not winning headlines in a political blog.”

Like I said, it’s unclear what to make of Toledo.

My impression is that she’s smart and sharp, but insular and slightly paranoid of outside political forces.

The best thing she probably has going for her campaign is that winning the HD 60 seat is a priority of Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran.

Corcoran, along with state Sens. Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala, and Reps. Danny Burgess, James Grant, Chris Latvala, and Chris Sprowls, among others, are hosting a high-profile fundraiser supporting Toledo this Tuesday at the Columbia Café in Tampa.

The Democrats have recruited an excellent candidate in David Singer, although Singer can sometimes sound a tad aloof, as if he has better things to do than raise money for his campaign.

Singer has raised just over $115,000 through Sept. 16, spending more than $40,000, while Toledo has banked over $155,000 during the same period, not including a $25,000 loan, and spent nearly $167,000.

With Corcoran and the Florida GOP machine behind her — and Pedicini, who is on a hot streak, probably helping from afar (perhaps through an outside vehicle) — it’s likely Toledo will hold HD 60 for the Republicans.

I just don’t know what kind of lawmaker Toledo will make.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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