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Direct mail roundup: Will Newton flier uses St. Pete sewage dump as back-handed dig on his opponent

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The latest pro-Will Newton mailer doesn’t mention his opponent directly, but it definitely smacks of anti-Lisa Wheeler-Brown insinuations. Hitting voters’ mailboxes Thursday, the Newton mailer, paid for by his own campaign, plays on the recent St. Pete scandal in which millions of gallons of sewage were dumped into local bodies of water.

“Raw sewage isn’t the only thing that stinks,” the mailer begins. “Lying to City Council about how much was dumped is even worse.”

The mailer then goes on to describe the extraordinary rain event that led to the city dumping 15 million gallons of raw sewage into the environmentally sensitive Clam Bayou and about 1.5 million more into Tampa Bay.

The mailer mentions a “person” who made that decision and points out that person abruptly “retired” following backlash over the dump. That person is former public works administrator Mike Connors.

It doesn’t seem to have much to do with a City Council race, but Connors was repeatedly criticized as being a shill for the Kriseman administration. Newton’s opponent has been criticized by opponents as being the same thing.

The text-heavy mailer paints the sewage dump and the subsequent conversations as being one lie after another. Specifically, it was later discovered that another 15 million gallons of sewage, though not raw sewage, was also dumped.

“What does this have to do with a City Council election?” the mailer asks. “It’s simple. You don’t need a City Council member simply trusting everything they’re told. You don’t need a ‘rubber stamp’ on council largely supported to do the administration’s bidding. That would really stink!”

Even though the mailer doesn’t name her, Wheeler-Brown was endorsed by the Tampa Bay Times based on one sole issue — she supports Mayor Rick Kriseman’s agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays and Newton doesn’t.

“Respected as a tough negotiator and committed to the people of St. Petersburg, Will Newton believes you deserve a better deal from City Hall, and it begins with always putting your safety above appearances and politics,” the mailer said.

The “appearances” comment is also curious in the mailer because of recent controversy surrounding Wheeler-Brown. She spent $500 of campaign money to fix a cracked tooth. When some speculated the dental procedure may have been used to remove a gold tooth, Wheeler-Brown’s campaign said images showing the candidate without the gold tooth were edited to make her look more professional.

The opposite side of the flyer touts Newton’s accomplishments as a firefighter and EMT as well as his Florida Firefighter of the Year award in 2011 from the governor and Cabinet.

The flier does a good job of boosting Newton’s character by listing what his commitments would be on council while at the same time implying his opponent would hold herself to those same values.

Expect more mailers to hit mailboxes in the coming weeks. Election Day isn’t until November3, but mail ballots went out to voters who requested them this week.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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