(Update: Daphne Campbell has issued a formal apology for the incident, a portion of which has been added to this piece. You can read the full apology here.)
State Sen. Daphne Campbell appears to be openly flouting Florida election law by once again claiming an endorsement from an Aventura City Commissioner who has endorsed her opponent, Jason Pizzo.
Campbell lists Commissioner Robert Shelley (whose name is misspelled in her materials) on a campaign flyer issued to voters in Senate District 38. You can see his face among a list of others who have endorsed Campbell’s campaign.
The problem is: he’s backing her opponent in the SD 38 Democratic primary. And this isn’t the first time Campbell has made this claim.
On July 3, Florida Politics published a piece detailing what appeared to be a mistake by Commissioner Shelley which led to confusion over which candidate he was endorsing.
It turns out both the Pizzo and Campbell campaigns had received a signed letter from Shelley’s office indicating his support. After contacting Commissioner Shelley directly, he said the letter to the Campbell camp must have been sent in error, and that he was actually endorsing Pizzo.
Nevertheless, Campbell did receive that letter, and provided it to Florida Politics. That explained why Shelley was among a list of people Campbell claimed were endorsing her campaign in early July.
In the reporting for our previous story, Florida Politics contacted the Campbell campaign directly, explaining Shelley was sticking by his endorsement of Pizzo. They clearly got the message, as Shelley says Campbell later retracted a reciprocal endorsement of his campaign for re-election to the Aventura City Commission.
Yet, his photo remains among a list of people purportedly endorsing Campbell, seen on the flyer above.
“This one is just intentional,” Shelley says.
“I don’t know where she’s getting it from. But it’s just a disgrace; it’s illegal.”
On the law, he’s right.
Florida Statute 106.143 reads, in the relevant part: “It is unlawful for any candidate or person on behalf of a candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate, unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.”
Back in July, the Campbell campaign had what they thought was valid written approval. But not now, says Shelley.
“The first time, OK. It could be a mistake, I’ll chalk it up to a mistake. This is not a mistake. She knew.”
Violations of that statute could result in civil penalties.
At first glance, it is possible that the flyers were made to be printed before Campbell receiving notice that Shelley’s endorsement was sent in error. However, Pizzo says that’s not the case here.
Take a look again at the flyer:
In the bottom right, you see the phrase, “Touch 90,” ostensibly referring to Campbell’s “punch number” for Election Day.
“We all got our punch numbers of what number we are going to be on the ballot on July 5,” says Pizzo.
That’s two days after we spoke to the Campbell campaign and released our original story on July 3.
Commissioner Shelley says he wants a formal statement from the Campbell campaign making clear they understand he is not endorsing her campaign. He also says the campaign should cease sending the flyers out immediately.
Shelley also says he’s concerned with his own constituents receiving confusing information.
“This is something which I don’t want affecting me personally, because I’m running for re-election.”
In response to this piece, the Campbell campaign issued a formal apology directly to Commissioner Shelley for misuse of his photo.
“Unfortunately, the staff didn’t recognize that you removed yourself from endorsing Sen. Campbell and gave your name to our graphic designer to prepare literature for the campaign,” said Campbell campaign manager Maxo Sinal.
“By the time we uncovered the mistake, it was already distributed. Mr. Shelley, Sen. Campbell respects everyone’s choice to support her or her opponent. This incident doesn’t reflect our campaign values. On behalf of Sen. Daphne Campbell, I present to you my sincere apology and I have already implemented steps to avoid such a mistake.”