The Guido Maniscalco campaign team is lashing out at Jackie Toledo and Anthony Pedicini, her campaign consultant, after a mailer blasting Maniscalco hit homeowners in the Tampa District 6 area on Thursday, just days before early voting begins in their runoff election scheduled for March 24. But Toledo is not backing down.
The mailer bashes Maniscalco, claiming his business record is a “mess,” with allegations that the company that he is associated with, Guido Morana Vintage Timepieces, owes nearly $40,000 in back taxes, between 2007-2010..The mailer also disputes the notion that Maniscalco runs the company.
But the 30-year-old Maniscalco says that he never has run the company, and in fact was a student at USF who didn’t graduate until December 2007, and worked for the next couple of years out of college at the Montblanc pen store at the International Plaza Mall in Tampa, not at the family-owned jewelry store. He says the store had always been run by his grandmother until 2010, when serious health problems forced her to no longer run the business. His mother has been running it since, he says, and he’s been helping out. He acknowledges the store’s financial problems, which he said happened at the time his grandmother suffered a stroke, followed by the recession, where buying luxury products like watches and jewelry pieces weren’t what families were interested in.
Maniscalco says in fact he’s self-employed right now, so he says he’s telling the truth when he calls himself a business owner, selling watches and other items in his store online. The mailer calls his claim that he’s a small business owner as “false.”
He says he can’t believe that a small City Council race is generating such attack ads.
“Jackie Toledo needs to apologize to my family and especially my grandmother,” Maniscalco said in a statement. “This isn’t how things are done in District 6 and not what people want in a leader — someone desperate enough to gain this seat as to lie and attack an 87-year-old widow. Any candidate who would exploit a personal family tragedy for their own political gain is, in my opinion, not fit to hold any public office.”
But contacted late this afternoon, Toledo says that while it’s “unfortunate” that this type of campaigning done by outside groups exists, she adds that if the contents of the mailer are correct, “Mr. Maniscalco’s honesty and record are in question.”
“We’ve been to countless debates, forums, meet and greets, and neighborhood meetings together throughout this campaign,” Toledo wrote to Florida Politics in an email message. “Consistently, Guido touts himself to be small business owner at his family jewelry store. Up until today, I had no idea that was not the case. Additionally, I first learned today that the business he’s [been] claiming as his own and has been campaigning on as a reason he’d be fit for service on the City Council owes tens of thousands in unpaid taxes.”
“So, I’m left to wonder, and what still has yet to be answered by the Maniscalco campaign, is he not associated with running the business that owes tens of thousands in unpaid taxes that he’s been campaigning on and thus has been lying to voters for a year? Or is he associated with it and their unpaid tax bills and now doesn’t want to take ownership of his record.”
The mailer comes from the group Moving Tampa Forward, the sixth to be issued during the campaign. Moving Tampa Forward’s origins remain unclear. Despite extensive reporting that there may be a link to Pedicini, he has denied any connection. And Toledo has said she is satisfied with that response.
Moving Tampa Forward is being funded by the Wilbur Smith law firm, based in Fort Myers. It’s not apparent why a Fort Myers law firm would be interested in the outcome of a Tampa City Council race, and unfortunately, Mr. Smith, a former mayor of Fort Myers, did not return our call for comment.
The treasurer of Moving Tampa Forward is listed as Auston Cianflone, who may or may not be an actual human being.
Team Maniscalco also sent reporters a copy of an article of incorporation for the Tampa Creative Camps, the camp that Toledo has touted as running. Farris says that Toledo has incorrectly called herself a “small business owner,” when she’s in fact running a nonprofit. “She is not the ‘owner’ of any nonprofit because it is impossible to be an ‘owner’ of a nonprofit,” he writes.
“This is just one more example of how Toledo does not know how to be honest with the voters. She continues to misrepresent herself, embellish her resume and deceive the very people she wants to represent,” he says.
Toledo says her nonprofit is a business. “The tenets of running a for-profit business and a nonprofit business are the same, the major difference being we don’t operate with the exclusive goal of making money, but to improve our community.”
Bryan Farris, Maniscalco’s campaign manager, says the attacks by unknown third parties resembles tactics employed by Pedicini back during the 2011 Tampa mayoral contest, when Anthony Pedicini represented Rose Ferlita.
Ferlita has been out of the public eye since her loss to Bob Buckhorn in the mayoral contest, but she told the Tampa Tribune last Sunday that she would not endorse Toledo because of her association with Pedicini.
A previous mailer criticized Maniscalco for being a former Republican, which he freely acknowledges he was. “Ronald Reagan switched parties,” he said. “So did Charlie Crist.”
But he says this new mailer is completely false, though he says he’s been expecting something negative to hit before early voting commences. “They’re scraping the bottom of the barrel,” he says.”This is turning people off big time.”