Accusations Fly in Congressional Race; GOP Candidates Stearns, Oelrich Exchange Federal Complaints

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Dixon

TALLAHASSEE | A dueling set of complaints over campaign advertisements has become the latest strike in a heated battle between congressional candidates Cliff Stearns and Steve Oelrich.

The two are part of a four-way Republican primary race for the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District, which runs from Clay County to the Gulf of Mexico.

Stearns, running for a 13th term in Congress, hit first, filing complaints on July 2 with both the federal government and state ethics officials. In response, Oelrich, a state senator from Cross Creek, filed his own set of federal complaints Thursday.

Stearns' federal complaints say Oelrich did not, as required, disclose that radio spots that ran in Gainesville from June 26-28 were political ads. In the second complaint, Stearns says Oelrich used his state Senate money to pay for radio ads for his congressional race. That's against federal election law, because although corporations and labor unions can give money directly to state candidates, they can't to federal candidates.

A third complaint filed with the Florida Elections Commission says that Oelrich ran "thank you" ads on Gainesville radio stations at odds with state law. Only a candidate who withdraws from a race, is running unopposed, or has been eliminated from a race can use money from his state account to thank constituents.

"Clearly candidate Oelrich and his candidacy for Florida's 3rd Congressional District do not meet any of the ... criterion when it purchased 'thank you' advertising," the complaint reads. …