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Philip Garrett called Janelle Irwin’s radio show; what happened next was awesome

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Philip Garrett is also “Charles in St. Pete,” an occasional caller at WMNF Community Radio on news and public affairs shows. For anyone who listens to call-in shows on WMNF, you know that not all of the callers always have the firmest grasp on the topics they’re calling about. “Charles in St. Pete” is not one of them.

But he made a silly mistake today.

As many of our readers know, I also host a political call-in show on WMNF on Friday afternoons called Midpoint. It’s a hoot, you should listen.

And Friday was a particular hoot thanks to Garrett. He called to point out (or complain, not really sure which) that I had not interviewed him, but had covered his campaign negatively.

For some context, the topic of Friday’s show that prompted a cameo from Garrett in which he dropped his pseudonym, was kind of relevant. I was debating how much the media shapes political discourse, particularly campaigns.

See, Dan Ruth penned a column in the Tampa Bay Times this week about a possible Rick Baker congressional bid and wrote that he would be running against Charlie Crist.

That’s simply not true. Crist is running against Eric Lynn in a Democratic Primary. If Rick Baker jumps in as a Republican, he would run against the winner. That’s a pretty duh scenario, but the Lynn omission is indicative of what happens when an establishment candidate comes into a race and snatches all the media coverage and is presumed a winner before a single ballot is even cast.

Garrett felt like he was on the receiving end of that exact phenomenon thanks to yours truly.

Fair point, Garrett. Fair point.

But here’s where Garrett gets it wrong. In every story I write about the District 5 race in which he’s launched all out war on incumbent Steve Kornell, I mention that Garrett is running.

What Garrett is really upset about is the fact that I haven’t been shy in calling him a “Hail Mary candidate.”

I get why Garrett’s angry. I’ve told the thousands of readers who come to SaintPetersBlog for all things St. Pete that he’s a no-go. But it was a huge political mistake for him to call a radio show and interrupt a conversation with his frustration.

The call, in which I ended up giving him a pretty good verbal lashing explaining why he’s not a viable candidate, was just one more reminder of why Garrett isn’t ready for office.

It was an emotional reaction. As an elected official, you pretty much need to grow some thick skin and let the negative attention, of which there will be plenty, roll right off.

So here’s what I explained to Garrett in a forum that probably gets as much attention as this blog, but from an entirely different audience:

“Philip, you opened a can of worms here.

You’re right … I did call you a Hail Mary candidate … because, sadly Philip, you’re a nice guy. I’ve heard you talk. You’ve got good messages. You’re passionate. That’s all fine and good, but your campaign finance record, not just in this election but in your previous campaign for the State House, was a wreck. There were so many mistakes upon mistakes upon mistakes upon mistakes that you’re not a viable candidate.

And then, also consider the fact that you go to these debates and you have the same talking points over and over and over and over again, but you don’t have any specifics to back them up. You got an endorsement from the Tampa Bay Times based on one sole issue and most of what I have written is how horrible that is.

… Next time you want to get on my show you can just be honest about who you are. You don’t have to lie and call yourself Charles.”

I squeezed all that into as little time as possible. So let’s look at some background here. Garrett’s current campaign finance reports don’t add up. Each report period shows entirely different numbers and totals and they don’t often reflect numbers from previous reports.

He filed one report so late he was slapped with a big ole fine for it.

And when he ran for the State House against Darryl Rouson, it was the same story.

During that race Garrett received five letters from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections warning him that his campaign finance reports had not been received on deadline and would face fines of $50 per day for the first three days late and then after that, $500 per day.

In January of this year, the Division of Elections sent Garrett a warning that seven of his mandatory campaign finance reports were incomplete during that 2014 campaign.

On February 19 of this year he was given a final notice that the errors had still not corrected. The letter gave Garrett seven days to make the corrections or face fines of up to $1,000. It’s unclear whether the matter has since been resolved.

And then there’s this: Garrett had a home foreclosed on in 2009. Garrett settled the foreclosure with a Deed in Lieu of foreclosure for nearly $70,000.

Another foreclosure is still pending.

Sure, some folks will vote for Garrett – his friends and family and maybe a few residents who like that he wants lower taxes and better services (two things he hasn’t really outlined how to actually achieve.) But Kornell is, despite Garrett’s radio claim, crushing him in the polls.

Thanks for the call “Charles in St. Pete.”

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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