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BY Myriam Marquez
by Myriam Marquez on 9/6/00.

To borrow from rapper Eminem: Will the Real Republicans please stand up, please stand up?

Because there are a lot of "slim shadies" out there and fat-cat shady characters running some of the sleaziest and meanest political advertising that voters have endured this primary-election season.

And now we're left with the after-primary hangover to contemplate how best to stop this nonsense once and for all.

Trying to "out-Republican" one another in a primary is nothing new for Grand Old Party candidates. Democratic candidates have their own "party-loyalty litmus tests," too. But in Central Florida, the sheer number of Republican primaries exposed an often-bizarre scenario of candidate charges and countercharges. It all played out on the airwaves in political advertisements that, to put it kindly, take real liberties with the truth.

Three races in particular became insulting in their tar-and-feather tactics against opponents: the District 8 U.S. House of Representatives Republican primary, District 9 in the Florida Senate and District 37 in the Florida House.

In the District 8 primary race, we had Ric Keller, a lawyer who wasn't that well known until his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives seat now held by Bill McCollum. Keller tried to paint state Rep. Bill Sublette as a double-talking liberal who pretends to be a conservative.

"Bill Sublette," one of Keller's ads summarized: "He sounds good. He just votes bad."

The Republican Leadership Council, which purports to be run by moderate types, countered with an ad against Keller that tried to link him to Democratic opponent Linda Chapin and, by innuendo, to President Bill Clinton.

"Keller gets caught acting like a liberal. How embarrassing," the ad stated as it moved for a close-up of Keller. "How wrong. How Clinton."

Stealth attack ads were financed by third parties with nice-sounding names, such as the Alliance for Florida's Economy, a pro-business group. Or Citizens
for a Sound Economy, a group that supports liability limits in lawsuits against doctors and businesses. Or Florida Consumer Advocates and the Council for a Safer Florida Inc., both groups backed by trial lawyers fighting limits the Legislature set last year on lawsuits.

Trial lawyers set out to topple state Sen. Anna Cowin, a Leesburg Republican running for re-election in District 11, and state Rep. Lee Constantine, the Altamonte Springs Republican who is running for District 9 in the Florida Senate.

Constantine went as far as to enlist Gov. Jeb Bush's help. During the weekend, Bush appeared in ads criticizing out-of-state special interests that were trashing Constantine, who billed himself in another ad as "a real conservative."

Meanwhile, David Simmons, who was running for the District 37 seat Constantine is leaving in the state House of Representatives, was fighting another unfair Clinton-smear campaign leveled by the Alliance for Florida's Economy. An alliance ad also implied that Simmons somehow was to blame for mismanagement when he served on the board of a mental-health agency, a charge that Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie vehemently disputed.

How did any of these tactics in so-called issues ads educate the voters about the candidates?

They didn't.

Surely, though, the ads will bring pressure on Tallahassee to strengthen accountability in lax campaign-finance laws. Voters should know who gives money to those groups that are placing malevolent ads.

Real Republicans will stand up for campaign reform -- won't they?