110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Beacon Staff
posted Jul 26, 2012 - 12:59:36pm
Editor’s note: Welcome to “Campaign Diary,” a collection of election tidbits contributed by members of The Beacon staff, as we march along the campaign trail, following those who seek elected office on this year’s crowded ballots.
In 2004, a group called “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” or “swift boaters” launched an attack to discredit presidential candidate John Kerry. The term “swift-boating” came to mean a harsh political and personal attack, using questionable facts.
Perhaps the term in Volusia County this political season is “yacht-boating.”
A group called “Committee to Protect Florida” in Tallahassee forked over $50,000 to promote a direct-mail campaign attacking Ted Doran, who has billed himself, in his campaign for county chair, as a political outsider.
Contributors to this committee include Brown & Brown Insurance Co. of Daytona Beach and Daytona International Speedway, whose principals apparently don’t like Doran.
The glossy, full-color, two-sided 8.5-by-11-inch mailer screams “Hypocrite Alert!” According to the flier, “Ted Doran has billed taxpayers for millions of dollars as a government attorney here in Volusia County.”
The mailer shows Doran wearing a wife-beater tank top and a cheesy grin. Behind him is a yacht christened “Top Billing.” Doran, the mailer states, is “an insider who has cost taxpayers millions!”
Our first question to Doran: Is that really you, wearing that shirt, in the photo?
“Well, yes,” he said.
The photo was taken a few years ago for a Floridian View magazine tourism-advertising campaign, and Doran was deliberately dressed in a tacky beach get-up.
Doran does own a yacht named Top Billing, but the one pictured on the mailer is not his, and Doran said it looks nothing like his 12-year-old boat.
Doran said Top Billing refers to “bill fishing,” or fishing for marlin, sailfish, swordfish and spearfish.
A “top biller” is also a lawyer with hefty invoices, of course.
What about the claim that Doran has billed local governments for $10 million?
Doran disputes it.
“There’s no way you can come up with $10 million,” he said, even accounting for his 20-year tenure as the Volusia County School Board attorney. At any rate, he added, the cost of his staff and office would come out of any billings for work he did for local governments.
Whether Doran is an insider or an outsider is arguable. Doran is the School Board attorney, and he has provided legal services to several municipalities, in addition to chairing the Halifax Area Advertising Authority and Team Volusia.
The county-chair race has three candidates: Doran, former County Council Member Carl Persis, and Edgewater veteran and political newcomer Jason Davis.
Persis, who is supported by Brown & Brown and the speedway, said he had no knowledge that the brochure was being produced.
“I got a copy of it in the mail,” Persis said. “They didn’t consult me or ask me. I was as surprised as anyone else when it came in my mailbox.”
Persis said he got a call from Charlie Lydecker, regional president at Brown & Brown, the day before the story broke, alerting Persis of the publicity to come.
Persis said he prefers to stick to the issues and keep the campaign positive. He said he will continue to talk about his public service and what he intends to do as county chair.
Candidate Davis said he finds the dispute rather uninteresting. He preferred to talk about his recent trip to Washington, D.C., with a group of veterans intent on convincing Congress to approve the Keystone XL pipeline that will carry oil from Canada to Nebraska, then to refineries in Texas. Climate scientists are asking the State Department to evaluate the pipeline’s local environmental impacts, and its impacts on global climate change.
All three candidates — Doran, Persis and Davis — vowed to run clean campaigns. Perhaps their political supporters can get on board with that, too.
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