Democratic Party sends letter to Daphne Campbell highlighting ‘questionable ethics’

Daphne Campbell.
Daphne Campbell. rkoltun@elnuevoherald.com

As a policy, the Miami-Dade Democratic Party says it doesn’t get involved in primary races between two Democrats. But it sure looks like the organization is ready to distance itself from state Sen. Daphne Campbell.

Triggered by a mail piece distributed to some voters in Campbell’s district that touts her reelection campaign alongside a slate of Republicans, the local party has asked Campbell to appear before them Tuesday to disavow any involvement. They summoned Campbell with a stinging letter that all but accuses her of consorting with the enemy.

“There is suspicion that your campaign was associated with this mail piece because of your past links to the Republican Party and history of questionable ethics,” wrote Steve Simeonidis, general counsel to the Miami-Dade Democatic Party. “We will consider a failure to respond to this letter as a tacit admission of your involvement with the suspect mailer.”

Campbell declined an interview, but said in a series of text messages that her primary opponent, Jason Pizzo, had created the “Republican Neighbor” mailer and placed her name alongside Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo in order to frame her. She texted pictures of another flier that she believed to be linked, urging voters to support Pizzo and several Democratic African-American candidates.

“Someone in his camp made the Republican flyer against me because he, she, or they are stupid,” Campbell wrote in a late-night message that contained a few typos. “They are desperate and stupid. Tell him to run his campaign on his records not making false accusations, lying to media and on TV.”

The political ad in question includes a disclaimer that — while inadequate under the requirements of Florida law for political committee communications — attributes the campaign piece to “Republican Neighbor.” No such committee is listed by the county or state elections departments.

Pizzo’s campaign denies any involvement.

Though both Campbell and Pizzo are Democrats, a campaign aimed at Republicans could be helpful in the Aug. 28 election for Campbell’s Senate District 38 because the primary is considered “open” to voters of all party affiliations due to the fact that only Democrats are running for the seat. A memo released Wednesday to the Miami Herald by Pizzo’s campaign, for instance, found that 40 percent of absentee ballots cast in the race had been submitted by Republicans and independent voters.

While Campbell told the Miami Herald and other media that she’s being framed, the local party wants to hear it straight from Campbell.

In his letter, Simeonidis encouraged the state senator to make the following statement: “Under penalty of perjury, I hereby swear that neither me, nor my campaign directly or indirectly finance and/or distribute or have any prior knowledge as to the mail piece sent by ‘your Republican Neighbor.’ Furthermore, I denounce this illegal tactic.”

The Miami-Dade Democratic Party asked State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to resign last year, so condemnation of a local party figure is not unprecedented. But Simeonidis’ letter was still unusual, particularly in its tone, which showed just how frustrated some members have become with Campbell.

In summoning her before the party’s executive committee, Simeonidis ran through a litany of negative news articles and votes that have rankled her colleagues, including her support for a bathroom gender bill, her siding with Republicans in a vote for leadership of the Miami-Dade Delegation, and her decision to celebrate her election to the Senate two years ago in the company of the chairman of the local Republican Party and disgraced former congressman David Rivera.

The letter also criticized her “questionable ethics,” diving into news articles about her taking cash in a designer purse, gaps in her residency record, and trying to get an FPL lobbyist to turn the power on at her home following Hurricane Irma.

Simeonidis told the Miami Herald that Campbell had not confirmed her attendance as of Wednesday evening. In her text messages, Campbell did not say whether she’d seen his letter or whether she’d attend the meeting.