As threatened last year, Pinellas county dentists and other health care professionals have become reluctant activists in two contested seats on the Pinellas County Commission. They are campaigning in support of challengers to two incumbents who voted to stop adding fluoride to Pinellas's public water supply.
"I've never been political, I don't want to be political in my office" Dr. Ed Busch, president of the Pinellas County Dental Association told FOX 13 News, "We started out trying to educate them, saying, 'Hey, this is why we'd like you to keep it in the water,' and they've gone to the point where they're not going to do it at all, to the point where now we've become political about it."
Like dozens of other practitioners, Busch has campaign literature on the waiting room coffee table and campaign signs planted out front.
The vote last October to stop adding fluoride was four to three, and commissioners Neil Brickfield and Nancy Bostock were two of the four. Both have challengers enjoying the political windfall.
"We've got the backing of both dental associations, the Pinellas Medical Association, groups that rarely endorse the Democrats," said Charlie Justice, a former Florida lawmaker opposing Bostock. "Dentists are supporting financially, dentists are out knocking on doors, waving signs, telling their patients and their neighbors."
Justice thinks it the key issue: "Chamber of Commerce, union hall -- fluoride is the number-one issue people talk about."
Bostock, in full campaign mode, waving signs on Seminole Boulevard, disagreed.
"When it comes up, it's few and far between and I would say it's pretty evenly shared between pro and con," she told FOX 13 News. "I think the economic issues are overshadowing everything."
The commissioner said she read the binder full of fluoride-supporting information provided by the dentists, and contrary information provided by fluoridation opponents.
"A lot of it is contradictory, of course," Bostock admitted. "All of it, both sides of it, only served to cement my position that this is an issue that everybody should get to decide for themselves."
Commissioner Neil Brickfield did not respond to a request for comment. His opponent is Janet Long, another former state lawmaker.
The three county commissioners favoring fluoridation include long-time incumbent Ken Welch, who is opposed by a political newcomer.
The November election will determine if there are four votes on the commission to restore fluoridation. Until then, Busch said the same risks cited by dentists a year ago remain.
"We're going to start seeing more [tooth] decay, especially on the elderly patients and our younger patients," Busch added.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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