Venice Thrives encourages ‘clean campaign pledge’ for upcoming election

WWSB ABC7 News at 6pm
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 8:36 PM EDT
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VENICE, Fla. (WWSB) - Venice Thrives, a group made up of residents in Venice, has encouraged Venice City Council candidates to sign a clean campaign pledge.

Two seats are open on the council that are held by Mitzie Fielder and Dick Longo. Longo will not be running again however, Fielder is.

According to Venice Thrives member Tommye Whittaker, two of the candidates have signed the pledge. Those candidates are Ron Smith and Joan Farrell.

Whittaker said the campaign is to ensure an accurate and honest election.

“Two have taken the pledge. So, we are at 50%, which is pretty good for a new group, but it would be great if all four took that pledge. At the very least, if they are not willing to do that, at the very least they should denounce when the negative PAC campaign starts,” said Whittaker.

Smith said he experienced negative campaigns last time he ran for Venice City Council, saying flyers were sent out to residents that were false.

“They accused me of being soft on crime. I had people tell me they didn’t vote for me for that reason but I’m a retired prosecutor. I’m somebody that taught at the police academy,” said Smith.

Farrell said voters should not listen to any negative material during this election.

“Listen to the candidate. Go to the candidate’s website. If needed, call the candidate. Go to meet and greets. Find out your information first-hand, not second-hand,” said Farrell.

ABC7 reached out to Fielder to find out why she has not signed the pledge.

“Unfortunately, my opponent [Joann Farrell] has already broken the pledge. I have always ran a clean honest campaign and will do so again,” said Fielder.

Jack Brill, Chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County gave the following statement to ABC7: “The Republican Party of Sarasota County considers Venice Thrives a Democrat group and the so-called “clean campaign pledge” as a partisan gimmick to try to hide candidates’ past controversies. Venice Thrives leadership is entirely, or almost entirely, made up of Democrats and should be identified that wat so voters have all the information. It is not simply a good-government group. Most, if not all, of the board have already endorsed Democrat Ron Smith over Republican Dusty Feller. So this is not about a “clean campaign,” it is about partisan politics. The purpose of the pledge is to hide from Venice voters controversies in Ron Smith’s past. Less than three years ago, Democrat Joan Farrell was running for a state House seat in Tennessee. Now she is running for a Venice City Council seat here. The pledge blocks voters from knowing candidates’ relevant actions in the past as well as what they say today.”

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The Clean Campaign Pledge

To do my part to ensure an honest, fair election that focuses on the issues facing Venice voters, I pledge to:

1. Conduct my campaign accurately and honestly, keeping the focus on issues relevant to the voters of Venice, Florida.

2. Not engage in character defamation of other candidates or participate in invasions of personal privacy unrelated to campaign issues and to publicly repudiate any campaign material or advertisements of other groups who engage in such activities.

3. Refuse both direct contributions and indirect support, e.g. in the form of advertising or mailers using my name or photo, from organizations that do not disclose the origins of their funding, such as dark money PACs.