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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Tom Jackson Columns

Littlefield’s confounding fact-fudging

— Fact-checking resumes of politicians as they chase public office tends to be tedious and unrewarding but is nonetheless necessary. This sifting is especially relevant when the candidate claims his work history not only gives him an edge over his rivals, it is the fundamental reason voters should elect him.

Suppose, in such cases, the candidate is fudging his credentials. No, not just fudging, but conjuring them out of the ether. Suppose, in fact, the qualification a candidate describes as his “most important one” is pure fabrication.

What’s a voter to do?

Well. At a gathering of candidates Wednesday night on the west campus of Pasco Hernando State College, Ken Littlefield, a Republican county commission District 2 hopeful, praised the achievements of his opponents, Wesley Chapel businessman Mike Moore and Zephyrhills financial planner Bob Robertson. However, he said, “Between the two of them, they have very little experience in what it takes to be qualified to be a commissioner. On the other hand, I bring to the table experience, the kind of experience that is needed.

“I have served in the state Legislature for eight sessions. I was appointed by Jeb Bush to the bench of the Public Service Commission and served as the executive director of a statewide program working out of the governor’s office with offices all over the state.”

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So far, pretty much so good, but for this quibble: Littlefield notched only six legislative sessions; he was standing for a fourth two-year term that would have boosted him to eight sessions when Bush named him to the PSC and he dropped out, opening the door to the Will Weatherford era. Still, he was three-quarters correct, a level of accuracy that merits only a minor scolding.

Now the plot thickens.

“During that time I have collected a lot of tools, a lot of experience, and I am ready to put those into action and serve you as the next county commissioner from District 2.

“And of all the tools that I have collected, the most important one is the one that I had to learn and the one I used at the Public Service Commission, and in that quasi-judicial position I was a trier of the facts.

“I had to make decisions on facts. Not emotion, party politics, talking points or parochial boundaries. That’s a tool I will use to make decisions when I am the next Pasco County commissioner.”

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There it is, then, the essence of Littlefield’s claim to be Pat Mulieri’s rightful heir. Not that he has fresh insights and bold ideas. Not that he has been deeply involved in the community. That’s Robertson’s bailiwick. Not that he has a facility for engaging the sorts of business owners who could be lured to Pasco under the right circumstances. That’s where Moore shines.

No. Hoping to succeed an established hand at the wheel, Littlefield portrays himself as yet another solid, proven public servant in the Mulieri mold. Polished. Reliable. Experienced. A trained “trier of facts” who, according to him, learned while serving on the PSC how to arrive at decisions apart from the usual push and tug of public policymaking.

This would be important if true. History says otherwise.

Nominated to the PSC by Bush in September 2006, Littlefield’s actual service lasted about 48 hours. Sworn in in January 2007 but not yet confirmed by the state Senate, he’d barely had time to sleep on the glow of his new responsibilities than his membership was revoked — along with 282 other Bush appointees to various state boards and authorities — by freshly inaugurated Gov. Charlie Crist, who described Littlefield as insufficiently consumer-friendly.

Crist’s prickly observation is a discussion for another day. Just now, it is up to Pasco’s Republican voters to render a verdict on a candidate who didn’t just needlessly fib about his record, but who brandishes the product of his fib as his foremost qualification. Incredible.

If GOP voters can’t figure out what to do with this blatant sleight-of-mouth, odds are Land O’ Lakes Democrat Erika Remsberg, awaiting the primary survivor on the far side of Aug. 26, certainly can.

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