With no campaign signs or funds raised, anti-fluoride candidate ousts ECUA incumbent
Elizabeth Campbell says she owes her recent election to the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority board to a single issue: her distaste for fluoride in drinking water.
Campbell ousted the incumbent candidate without raising a dime or placing a single yard sign in her district in western Escambia County.
Instead, her bid for public office got a boost from local anti-fluoride activists, members of the grassroots organization known as Campaign for Liberty, an upstart political group affiliated with one-time Republican presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.
Campbell, who ran as a Republican, is a member of Campaign for Liberty’s local chapter. Her meetup.com profile also lists affiliations with a half-dozen other Campaign for Liberty chapters throughout the Southeast.
Campaign for Liberty members who live in Campbell’s district voted en masse Tuesday and swept the former Ferry Pass Middle School teacher into office.
“I’m pretty amazed,” Campbell said the day after defeating Logan Fink, the two-term incumbent Republican.
Fink, an assistant professor in biology, environmental science and soil science at Pensacola Junior College raised about $8,000 for his campaign. He peppered the district, which covers Escambia’s west side to Perdido Bay, including Beulah, Bellview and Myrtle Grove, with small blue advertisements emblazoned with his name.
Fink, who has served on the ECUA board for the past eight years, said he’s never actually met Campbell and said he doesn’t believe that she’s ever attended one of the board meetings.
“I couldn’t pick her out of a lineup of people,” Fink said. “I have never met this woman, but apparently the anti- fluoride group seems to have a large pocket in our district, and apparently I didn’t realize how large it was.”
In December 2000, the ECUA board made the Pensacola metropolitan area the last place in the state to adopt fluoridation standards, two years after residents passed a nonbinding resolution in support of fluoridation.
Local dentists lobbied the ECUA board to adopt standards, saying it would benefit children’s teeth.
“That battle was fought before I got on the board, and I wasn’t part of that debate,” said District 2 board member Lois Benson. “I am certainly not interested in revisiting that issue. I have grandchildren, and I want them to have healthy teeth.”
Then a newcomer to the board, Fink originally helped kill the fluoride measure but later decided that it needed to be approved when the board revisited the issue.
Those opposed to fluoride in drinking water say the chemical is toxic and can cause cancer among other health problems.
“I think a lot of people are becoming more and more aware of the fluoride issue, just as I have become more recently,” Campbell said. “I know Mr. Fink kind of brushed that issue off as not being an important issue. Maybe he might rethink that.”
Nicholas Dodds, 23, a resident and member of Campaign for Liberty, voted for Campbell.
“We looked at candidates and noticed there weren’t a lot of them who were against fluoridation in the water,” Dodds said. “She’s avidly against fluoride. We were behind her the whole way.”
Members of Campaign for Liberty went to various civic groups to pitch the anti-fluoridation cause and to convince people to vote Campbell onto the ECUA board. They also used the video-sharing Web site YouTube.com to publish an amateur attack ad that highlighted other ECUA candidates’ support of fluoridation.
The Aug. 27 headline on the “Daily Paul,” an online publication dedicated to all things Ron Paul, read: “Ron Paul Candidate wins in Pensacola!!!!” The headline linked to a story about Campbell with one user who posted a suggestion that Campbell run for Congress.
No ‘politics as usual’
A native of Norristown, Pa., Campbell, 51, moved to Pensacola four years ago.
Campbell taught at Ferry Pass Middle School for two years, but her contract wasn’t renewed, according to Ronnie Arnold, spokesman for the Escambia County School District.
Campbell said she plans to continue to work as a substitute teacher. She’ll receive $32,477 in her newly elected position with the ECUA board.
“People don’t want politics as usual; I’m not a politician,” she said.