The contest between Plant City civic leader Yvonne Fry and Dover businessman Lawrence McClure in the special election for House District 72 has taken a sharp turn, as direct mail from outside interest groups pours into the district.
In the past week, two mailers sent by outside groups blasting Fry have made their way into eastern Hillsborough County mailboxes.
One came from the Orlando-based Ax The Tax political organization led by Doug Guetzloe and describes Fry as a tool for Tallahassee special interests. It says that she has been silent on issues such as increasing local taxes, moving the Confederate monument from a county courthouse and opposing light rail.
“We believe Fry to be the quintessential political insider who will not advance the conservative interests of the district in Tallahassee,” Guetzloe said Tuesday. “Conversely, we believe Mr. McClure will be a conservative star in the Florida Legislature.”
Responding to the charges, Fry said she has never been for light rail, calling it inappropriate.
However, back in May of 2016, Fry told the Tampa Bay Times’ Ernest Hooper that as a member of the Plant City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), she was part of a letter declaring full support of the Go Hillsborough transit tax initiative, which included a light rail component.
“The Plant City EDC (Economic Development Corp.) wrote a letter stating we’re in full support of the (Go Hillsborough) initiative,” Fry said. “Plant City has been the city of no, if you will, but our understanding of our spot at the table and our future is so dependent on seeing transportation as an investment in our infrastructure and not a tax. We need to be part of the solution and being part of crafting the regional design. We need to see that just because we aren’t getting a rail, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect the outcomes of our quality of life and how it all fits together. To me, a piece of this is educating women on how transportation affects them, how their lives would be different if we had better transportation solutions.”
Regarding the Confederate monument debate, Fry says she is actually on the record on that issue, noting that both she and McClure were asked about it at the Plant City Republican Women’s Club. “Our history is our history,” she said. “I don’t think that they should be moved.”
“I think we should learn from our history,” she said, adding that there are too many other issues ongoing where she’d rather focus her time and energy.
A second mailer from the recently formed Hillsborough County Conservatism Counts group declares “Yvonne Fry is against lowering property taxes,” while arguing that she opposes a proposed expansion of the homestead exemption.
“Simply stated, Yvonne Fry said she is against increasing the homestead property tax exemption,” the mailer reads, while also describing her as “liberal.”
On this charge, Fry’s response is more nuanced.
She says she’s a “huge proponent” of cutting taxes, but believes that the constitutional amendment was a “political ploy” and not appropriate for the state to tell local officials how to run their governments.
“The state should be cutting state taxes,” she says. “I think it was all political,” adding that Hillsborough County announced an immediate hiring freeze in anticipation of lower 2019 revenues.
Fry says that despite her misgivings about the proposal, she says she’ll vote for it next year.
“It’s a tax cut,” she says. “I’m for those.”
According to documents filed with the Florida Division of Elections, Hillsborough County Conservatism Counts is chaired by Ash Mason. He did not return our request for comment.
McClure said that he was focused on getting out his message and had no comment on the mailers.