MANATEE -- District 2 school board candidate Dave "Watchdog" Miner sent out a letter Monday afternoon publicly requesting that his opponent, Robert Moates, remove his TV campaign commercial for Bright House Networks from the air.
The ad depicts Moates, a Lakewood Ranch High School teacher, in a classroom setting with young cheering school children. Miner expressed concern that the ad was misrepresentative because Moates does not teach elementary school, and may have been broken district policies if the commercial was shot in a district classroom.
"Whether or not it was filmed in a district school, it is still a misleading political ad," Miner said Monday. "I've asked him to stop it immediately."
Moates said Monday that no district policies were broken during the making of his commercial and called Miner's assertions "ridiculous accusations."
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Moates said he filmed the 30-second ad at a private school in the district. The students in the video were the children of some of his supporters, and had volunteered to help, Moates said.
"I'm offended," Moates said, pointing out that it would have been unethical to use his own students anyway. "I'm a teacher. So how am I misleading by saying I'm a teacher?"
District spokesman Mike Barber confirmed Monday that there is a school policy prohibiting politicalactivity in district facilities,but said exceptions can be made for those who file the proper paperwork or go through the right channels.
Miner and Moates are vying for long-time board member Harry Kinnan's spot on the school board.
The winning candidate in the Nov. 6 election will join a school board strugglingto move forward from a$3.5 million budget deficit that school officials -- and the current board -- failed to realize until almost too late.
Former superintendent Tim McGonegal resigned after the budget disaster was revealed, and Moates or Miner will join the board as it searches for a replacement.
Though Moates' monetary campaign contributions exceed Miner's by just under $10,000, Miner has received more in total contributions thus far.
County records showthat Miner supporters have given $46,101, including in-kind contributions. Moates has received $40,873.31 in total.
Miner says his campaign is made up of smaller donations and funding from his own pocket. He has spent more than $8,000 of his own money on the Dave "Watchdog" Miner signs that have been distributed throughout the county.
School board Vice Chairman Karen Carpenter has made modest contributions to Miner's campaign, as has State College of Florida board members Charlene Neal and Ed Bailey.
Retired physician and Neighbors United for a Better Education founder Richard Conard has donated $500, though Conard also donated to Moates' campaign in March.
The Manatee Education Association, which endorsed Miner in the primary, has made two $500 donations, one before the primary and one in September.
Moates' single largest expenditure is the $9,000 he paid to Bright House Media Strategies for campaign ads -- the same day in September that 20 businesses associated with Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the developer of Lakewood Ranch, each made $500 donations to the Moates campaign.
Moates has championed a returned focus to education in the classroom in his campaign, while Miner has crusaded for transparency and fiscal accountability from district leaders.
"I'm not surprised that Mr. Miner could not recognize the classroom as not part of our district's," Moates said. "I'm not sure he's ever been in one."
For Miner, the issue was about faith in leadership.
"The people of Manatee County need to have their trust restored in their school board," Miner said. "This ad does not help."
Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.