Sen. Kelli Stargel launches broadside against consultant Anthony Pedicini, while weighing in on HD 40 race

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Now, this is not something you see very often. And in Florida politics, that’s saying something.

Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel brought out a poison pen for an op-ed published in Lakeland’s Ledger, attacking not a Democrat or another politician, but political consultant Anthony Pedicini. (Disclosure: Pedicini, as much as I disagree with his political views, is a longtime friend of both my wife and I.)

Writing to “The Republican voters of Polk County,” Stargel lays the blame at Pedicini’s feet for the rash of negative political campaigning in the race for House District 40 between Colleen Burton and John Shannon, who is a client of Pedicini’s. Actually, Stargel blames Pedicini not just for the attacks in the HD 40 race, but for the slings and arrows she endured in her 2012 campaign for the state Senate.

“When I saw the negative attack ads against Colleen Burton, it brought back memories of my recent campaign when my opponent’s consultant tried to bill me as the ‘Liberal Creature from Tallahassee,'” writes Stargel in her op-ed (which probably should have included a political disclaimer for Burton on it). “You probably remember. It was a rather dramatic commercial with the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It would have been comical except it was deliberately trying to deceive the voters and it was done, not from my opponent, but from a shadowy third-party group.”

“The consultant for my opponent at the time was Anthony Pedicini from Strategic Image Management, the same consultant John Hugh Shannon has hired,” concludes Stargel.

From there Stargel explains how she researched, Googled and connected all of the dots to show that Shannon is using Pedicini to attack Burton.

Um, OK…

Before we go any further, can anyone remember when a sitting member of the Florida Senate went after a political consultant like this?

Elected officials are supposed to stay above the fray — that being the machinery behind the campaigns and the people who build, maintain and run that machinery. When an elected official makes a campaign staffer or consultant the issue — even if they are right on the issue — they have surrendered the high ground.

Stargel is apparently still upset by an attack that used a parody of the 1954 horror film “Creature from the Black Lagoon” to take aim at Stargel as the “Liberal Creature from Tallahassee.”

Stargel claims Pedicini is responsible for that attack ad, although he had no connection to the Electioneering Communication Organization which paid for the ad.

What Stargel doesn’t mention is that there were two committees attacking her opponent, Jack Myers, before the first attack was launched against her.

Yet, none of this explains why Stargel is attacking Pedicini — other than her desire to impact the outcome of the race for House District 40.

Stargel is supporting Colleen Burton in the race to succeed Seth McKeel. Burton trails Shannon in the public polling.

The ads Stargel is now upset about label Burton as the architect for the largest tax increase in the history of Polk County (the ad may be viewed at

As reported on this blog, Shannon sent an email out denouncing the negative attacks, sending a cease and desist letter to the committee attacking his opponent.

Of course, Stargel does not believe Shannon’s denial, so she’s calling out his consultant, Pedicini.

Another fact Stargel conveniently fails to acknowledge is that Burton is receiving outside assistance from groups directly controlled by Burton’s treasurer.

Even if Stargel is right, what does she hope to gain? She’s the elected official, not a campaign operative. She should have remained above the fray.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.