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Flier attacks schools candidate for ethnic connections

By Erin Kourkounis
Published: August 11, 2014 Updated: August 11, 2014 at 05:27 PM
An attack ad against school board candidate Dipa Shah was distributed to some Hillsborough voters over the weekend. The sender claims to be the Conservative Values Coalition of Florida.

TAMPA — Over the weekend, some Hillsborough voters received a flier discouraging them from electing first-time candidate Dipa Shah to the school board and asking if “our conservative values line up with these powerful Ethnic and Special Interest Groups supporting Dipa?”

The advertisement, sent to Shah’s home among others, claims Shah, an Indian-American, is catering to “special interest” groups that will “indoctrinate or children with their liberal agenda!”

Printed at the top of the flier is the message, “Latinos, Indians, African Americans, Muslims, ... Hindus and Gay & Lesbian ... is in full support of Dipa.”

The other side reads, “Dipa Shah for Hillsborough County School Board, JUST SAY NO!” The words “Special Interests” appear in a red circle with a line slashed through them, as well as a crossed-out photo of Shah.

Shah faces seven others in the Aug. 26 primary election, including incumbent April Griffin, who is seeking a third term in the countywide District 6 seat.

Shah said Monday she isn’t ready to comment on the ad, but did say she has no idea who distributed it.

“I have been really focusing on the campaign,” she said.

The sender is listed as the Conservative Values Coalition of Florida, but exactly who sent the mailer is a mystery.

The treasurer of a political action committee with nearly the same name — Conservative Values Coalition — says his group did not send it.

After calls from reporters started coming on over the weekend, treasurer Michael Millner said he did some research to see if he could find out who was behind the ad.

“I tried to search this thing,” he said. “Nothing showed up.”

Shah, a Brandon attorney and mother of two Hillsborough students, has raised the most money of all 14 candidates for the three school board races —more than $100,000 in monetary and in-kind contributions, including many from the local Indian community.

Shah, a registered Republican, has been endorsed by the United Christians of Florida political action committee, as well as conservative radio host Bill Bunkley.

Randy Toler, one of Shah’s opponents in the District 6 race, said the mailer “didn’t make any sense” and seems like a personal vendetta.

“I think it was a very bad thing for somebody to do to Dipa,” he said. “She’s a good person and she deserves better than that.”

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Twitter: @ErinKTBO