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Howard Frankland Bridge toll signs sprout day before Florida primary

5:50 PM, Aug 13, 2012   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - On the campaign road to represent District 22 in the Florida Senate, Republicans Jeff Brandes and Jim Frishe are on the final stretch, and Frishe is driving to the primary finish line trying to attract drivers.

"I noticed it further down on 54th and I'm fishing, I see it right here as well," says Aaron Johnson of the numerous red and white campaign signs off 4th Street North in St. Petersburg where he and his family were fishing.

Overnight, on both sides of the Bay, dozens of the signs sprouted along routes leading to the Howard Frankland Bridge. "Stop tolls for Howard Frankland. Stop Brandes!" the signs read.

Along with the signs, the issue of possible tolls on the bridge is an attention getter. Johnson wants to see fish near the bridge, not tolls. "If these tolls go through, it would make it difficult to go to Tampa every day," says Johnson.

Frishe says he opposes tolls on the Howard Frankland. "So the average guy doesn't have to pay to get to work," he says.

However, there's a problem with this campaign issue. Frishe, along with Brandes, voted in favor of the transportation bill that grants the DOT more tolling power. For months, Brandes has been on record of supporting a bridge toll, only if free options for drivers remained.

"There's always going to be free options on the Howard Frankland. Nobody's talking about tolling," says Brandes, who called Monday's sign frenzy "an act of desperation."

So will these last-minute signs take a toll on the Brandes campaign? WTSP political analyst Seth McKee doesn't think so. "This is an interesting thing," says McKee. "The primary is tomorrow. That might be too little too late."

However, the toll tactic does come at a critical time. Because there is no Democratic candidate in the race, Tuesday's primary vote will decide the District 22 Senate election.

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