Craig Miller seems to be running in the wrong primary. He claims to be a Republican but doesn't seem to understand the lingo. Voters will forgive a candidate for doing something silly in college, but Republicans have a hard time understanding someone who claims to be a conservative but less than five years ago was advocating against strict enforcement of our immigration laws and lobbying for pro-amnesty causes. Even his superficial attempt at Facebook campaigning backfired on him.
I've listened to Miller speak at several events and looked over his campaign materials. He seems to be able to spit out some sound bites, but I have yet to hear any specific details, any specific proposals for reform, any specific ideas period. Even his TV ads just spit out proclamations that Miller is "pro-life!" "pro-Second Amendment!"
"Yep, I'm a Republican, I swear! Take my word for it, you can trust me, I promise!"
And that's when he bothers to show up. There have been a number of community forums and debates where Miller has been mysteriously absent or canceled at the last minute.
Now, in one of the nastiest and most despicable negative attacks I've ever seen, Miller has sent out an 11th-hour attack ad against Karen Diebel. In it, Miller takes several news articles out of context, misrepresents their content and then quotes several liberals.
Longtime Winter Park resident Pete Weldon has written a very detailed critique of the Miller attack here:
Karen Diebel, former Winter Park Vice Mayor and candidate for US House Seat in Florida District 24, believes in individual freedom, individual responsibility, smaller government, and financial restraint. I am a supporter.
Craig Miller, an opponent of Diebel’s in the Republican primary for the District 24 US House seat, along with former and current Winter Park city commission members Margie Bridges and Beth Dillaha, believe in character assassination and personal vendettas.
Miller mailed a letter to District 24 voters written by Bridges and Dillaha. The authors know this letter contains false and misleading claims about Diebel.
The fact is that Diebel voted repeatedly to lower the property tax rate and to reduce spending in Winter Park while building reserves during her service from 2007 to 2010. Bridges and Dillaha both voted to increase the 2009 property tax rate over Diebel’s objection (see page 9 here) and both voted to maintain the property tax rate for 2010, again over Diebel’s objection and desire to reduce the rate (see page 12 here). During Diebel’s tenure on the Winter Park commission and with her support the property tax rate was reduced by 14% and annual general fund spending declined by almost 6%.
Bridges and Dillaha knowingly misstate the facts about several events in claiming that Diebel is a spender and not a true conservative.
The former city manager had a sweetheart deal with a prior city commission that made it more and more expensive to terminate him the longer he stayed around, even though the city Charter requires that the city manager serve at the pleasure of the commission. Following his termination the former city manager sued Winter Park for even more money and Dillaha supported a settlement of $490,000 that is included in the total cost she now criticizes Diebel for (see page 2 here).
Bridges and Dillaha are anti-commuter rail activists who criticize anyone who supports this infrastructure investment and their claims about the existing Winter Park commuter rail agreement with Orange County are false. (Learn more here.)
The Bridges and Dillaha claim about buying out developers is the most outrageous hypocrisy. A settlement was paid as a direct result of the actions of Bridges, Dillaha and their political supporters for they were responsible for stopping the Carlisle project in Winter Park resulting in the developers suing the city. The settlement was paid to avoid a $25,000,000 liability for Winter Park taxpayers that was created by Bridges and Dillaha. You may also wish to know that Bridges voted for the settlement (see page 4 here).
- That Craig Miller would participate in character assassination says a lot about his qualifications for the US House seat from District 24.
- That Bridges and Dillaha would knowing mislead District 24 voters and refer to themselves as “honorable” five times in their letter is both a disgrace and an insult to the character and quality of the people of Winter Park.
- That Karen Diebel chooses to discuss the real issues and rejects mudslinging reinforces my support for her candidacy.
Regards, Pete Weldon
I agree wholeheartedly with Weldon's analysis. Dillaha and Bridges are two of the biggest tax-and-spend liberals to ever serve on the Winter Park City Commission. Their verdict on who is a "fiscal conservative" is as credible as asking a Red Sox fan for a character reference for a member Yankees' starting lineup.
Karen Diebel defeated Beth Dillaha in her first election to the Winter Park City Commission, and then Dillaha was elected to the commission during the next year's election. During the entire time Diebel and Dillaha served together, every time Diebel voted to cut taxes or cut spending, Dillaha voted the other way.
Dillaha fought bitterly against Diebel's work to pay down some of Winter Park's debt, a very fiscally responsible move, as the heavy debt load had led to the city's bond rating being downgraded. After the city's debt was reduced, and the bond rating restored, this resulted in a lower interest rate for the remaining debt. Diebel fought to return those funds to the taxpayers in the form of further tax cuts, while Dillaha viewed it as "free money" and sought to spend it on her pet projects. Fortunately for the taxpaying citizens of Winter Park, Diebel won that battle too. More on Beth Dillaha here.
Margie Bridges is no better than Dillaha on most of these issues, voting in line with Dillaha's tax and spend liberal ideology. Here is Beth Dillaha in her own words, advocating for Amendment 4.
Let's also remember the very contentious Winter Park mayor's race in March 2009. The liberals like Bridges and Dillaha were backing the then-mayor, a Democrat, David Strong. Karen Diebel supported and openly endorsed Kenneth Bradley, a Republican (who I also supported). The election was close and bitterly fought, but Bradley prevailed. Now Diebel had another ally to vote for lower taxes with her. Beth Dillaha owes her first election to David Strong's financial contribution and was a vocal opponent of Bradley, and Bridges has received David Strong's support as well.
The rest of Dillaha and Bridges' criticisms of Diebel can be easily dismissed as sour grapes, distortions, misrepresentations, or flat out lies. The charge that Diebel had "poor attendance" is one of these lies. Diebel had a perfect or nearly perfect (I'm sorry I don't have time to read through all the meeting minutes right now) record of attendance at City Commission meetings. Dillaha also has a habit of wasting taxpayer money and everyone's time by calling endless "workshop" meetings, which are really nothing more than her attempts to browbeat her fellow commissioners into voting with her, or to drum up community support for her latest big spending idea. Diebel also had an excellent attendance record at all these workshops.
So what the heck does the charge of "poor attendance" mean? The only specific thing Dillaha has said on the subject relates to community events and association meetings, which city commissioners are commonly invited but not required to attend. Well, not to overplay the whole "oh woe is me" card, but let's remember Karen Diebel has been raising her three sons by herself after her husband died, while holding down a fulltime job as an executive with Verizon. After Dr. Diebel was killed in that accident, someone had to support her family. I think we can forgive Karen Diebel for skipping a few garden club or society events, do you?
Regarding the rest of the salacious and malicious gossip on the mailer, the so-called quote from the Orlando Sentinel is actually a quote from Eric Jotkoff, who is the press secretary for the Florida Democratic Party. Yeah, that's credible. I refer you to my earlier example of asking Red Sox fans for opinions about the Yankees. The RedState article is taken out of context again - Erick Erickson has already gone on record criticizing Miller's attacks on Diebel and stating that he does not believe this nonsense. As for the Orlando Weekly, well, to call that rag "liberal" would be the understatement of the year. The Orlando Weekly makes the New York Times opinion page look like Rush Limbaugh's newsletter.
Finally, regarding all the other false and nasty lies referenced in this mailer, that anonymous internet bloggers like to repeat, let me just say this: unlike all the little haters blogging at home (or as I suspect, from the campaign offices of DIebel's opponents), I actually know Karen Diebel.
I know Karen well. I met her well over a year ago, when I heard she was running for Congress. Impressed with her reputation on the Winter Park City Commission, I called her up and scheduled a lunch with her. Within ten minutes, I remember thinking to myself that I was pretty sure I would end up supporting her. By the end of the lunch, I was completely sold.
Karen is very intelligent and extremely knowledgeable on technology and economic issues; I've teased her a few times about her "nerdy" side. She is passionate about conservative causes and really means it when she pledges to be "not just a vote, but a voice" advocating for these issues. She is kind and gracious to everyone, even people who are not supporting her. I've seen her greet people wearing shirts with her opponent's name just as warmly as anyone else.
I have spent a lot of time with Karen, especially after joining the campaign in the past month. I have seen her first thing in the morning as we drove along with the rising sun for a 7:00 a.m. radio appearance in Titusville. I have seen her late at night while the campaign team is discussing strategy. I have gotten to know her parents, her brother, and her wonderful sons...I don't think it's fair to always blame the parents when a kid goes bad, but when you look at Karen's smart, well-mannered, friendly sons, you know she has really done well raising them. I've gotten to know countless number of Karen's friends. I have seen her speaking at large events, at numerous debates and candidate forums, at every kind of radio program from Christian radio, to the fast pace of local political talk radio, to several appearances on our local Hispanic radio programs. You can tell a lot about a person from how they act around their friends and family, how they act when the cameras are off and the public isn't around, in their "down time."
Let me say this again: I know Karen Diebel. And this is what I know about her: she is smart, is warm and genuine to everyone she meets, has a great sense of humor, has done a wonderful job raising her sons, has an excellent business background, and is the only candidate in this race with an established record of actually shrinking the size of government. I would not be such an enthusiastic supporter of Karen Diebel if she were not a worthy person and the absolute best choice for District 24. The junk out there on the internet is just that, junk. If any of the people writing that stuff actually sat down and talked with Karen Diebel, they would not write such false and hateful things.
So, basically, Craig Miller has nothing but meaningless sound bites and a questionable pro-amnesty history, and then quotes a bunch of Democrats and liberals to attack Karen Diebel. Makes you wonder, if he thinks all these liberals are great sources of information, maybe he is in the wrong party? Miller wants to tear apart Karen Diebel's record of cutting taxes, cutting spending, and reducing the size of government, but what can he show us? Two restaurant companies, Pizzeria Uno and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, that were both in significantly worse shape when he left them then when he was hired. Ruth's Chris even fired him as CEO after watching their stock tank due in no small part to Miller's fiscal irresponsibility.
I remind my readers of another candidate who claimed to be a "good conservative" and "Republican," who offered great sound bites but had trouble with specifics:
UPDATE: NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions has strongly denounced Craig Miller's nasty attacks. See the Politico article here:
Sessions: "Sick to my stomach" over Miller Attacks
“I am distressed and concerned anytime we have Republicans attack one another,” Sessions told POLITICO Monday, warning GOP campaigns from leveling attacks that were not grounded in facts. “It makes me sick to my stomach.”