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5 takeaways from the Dana Young, Janet Cruz Tiger Bay clash

Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz and Senator Dana Young sparred in a heated debate Friday at Tampa Tiger Bay in their battle for the Senate District 18 seat.

This Tampa-area race has become one of the most hotly contested in the nation as Democrats seek to create a “blue wave” and Republicans fight to keep their majorities in state legislatures and Congress.

There’s a lot to watch in the race that pits to veteran lawmakers against one another.

Here are five takeaways from their latest match-up:

Education is one of the top issues

The Tiger Bay Club of Tampa is known for its feisty members who come prepared to ask tough questions. Friday’s forum with Cruz and Young was no different.

In addition to a question from the moderator, retired USF Political Science Professor and political commentator Susan McManus, several Tiger Bay members asked education-related questions ranging from funding for infrastructure improvements to the pros and cons of school choice programs like charter schools and voucher programs.

Cruz bashed her opponent, the incumbent in the District 18 Senate race, for continually supporting funding for charter schools and voucher programs at the cost of traditional public schools.

“[Her priority] has been with privatizing public schools and watching the infrastructure crumble,” Cruz said.  

Young did not refute her track record on charter schools, which are publicly funded but run by private education providers, or voucher programs that give low-income students the opportunity to attend private schools using tax-credit scholarships. Instead, she said she considers “the changing face of education.

“Public education today is very different than when I went to school,” Young said. “But now we have a wide variety of choices where parents can pick what works best [for their child.”

Both candidates think they care about student safety and guns

Young voted in favor of the student safety bill earlier this year that increases the minimum gun purchase age to 21, provides funding for additional school security, bans bump stocks that allow a modified weapon to fire similarly to an automatic weapon and allows school districts to arm teachers if they opt-in. Cruz voted against the bill because it didn’t include a ban on assault weapons.

Young sharply implied that Cruz’s vote against the school safety bill meant she didn’t prioritize student safety.

“We need to figure out why [lawmakers like Janet Cruz] don’t care about children’s lives,” Young said.

“Isn’t that hilarious, Dana,” Cruz fired back in a loud voice that countered Young’s stern, but calmer demeanor. “When she was elected … she was all about campus carry. She was all about open carry.”

Cruz accused Young of being a shill for the National Rifle Association. Young said she did not vote for an amendment that would have included an assault weapon ban in the school safety bill because it would have tanked the entire thing.

Neither candidate is afraid to get dirty

The gloves were off right out of the gate. Young accused Cruz of not caring about childrens’ lives. Cruz basically called her a hypocrite. The two were so shouty at one another, dozens of people were wrestling cell phones from their pockets and pocket bags to get some top-notch footage of one of the hottest races in the nation right now.

Cruz doubled down on her “dammit Dana” slogan she just came up with this week during a press conference on education funding — this time about guns. Young scolded her for being rude.

Cruz later accused Young of avoiding a vote banning assault rifles.

“She ran and hid because she was owned by the NRA.”

In turn, Young fired back that Cruz was a shill for the teacher’s union because “she doesn’t want to lose their funding.”

There are some things on which they agree

Despite the verbal jabs, there were moments of true diplomacy and mutual respect. In a now unusual moment of bipartisanship, both candidates praised Hillsborough County Public Defender Julianne Holt for her work with troubled youth and people with disabilities.

“She recognized early on … you take a kid who’s marginal. His mom is working. Maybe he doesn’t have the support some of us grew up with. She stood up for diversion programs [to keep those kids from going over the cliff,] Cruz said.

Young nodded in agreement and added her own praise for Holt’s work with people in the system with disabilities.

Both seemed on the same page about opening primary elections, agreeing that the demographic of voters without party affiliation is growing and closed primaries effectively disenfranchise those voters.

Don’t get too settled in the touchy-feely moments though. Like Cruz, they were in the minority party.

They might both support the transportation referendum

In a nod to the bipartisan tone transportation tax campaigners are trying to strike, it’s likely both candidates will support the All for Transportation referendum that would increase sales tax 1 percent to raise $280 million a year for both transit and transportation projects.

Cruz offered her support specifically.

Young was not as straightforward saying she would “probably” support it. Young said she needs to study the bill more before making a final decision noting that while transportation needs to be a priority — and needs additional funding — it’s important to carefully consider any tax increase before placing that burden on taxpayers.

Photo credit: Kim Defalco

‘Dammit Dana’: Janet Cruz blasts opponent Dana Young’s education record

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, now challenging GOP state Sen. Dana Young for her Senate District 18 seat, is attacking her opponent’s record on education policy and funding.

“Dammit Dana, stop,” Cruz lamented at a press conference in front of Plant High School in south Tampa on Tuesday.

Cruz was referring to Young’s track record voting in favor of school choice programs like vouchers and charter schools, which critics say funnel funding away from traditional public schools into corporate hands.

Young responded to Cruz’s comments, arguing school choice programs are effective for children, particularly those who may not live near good schools.

Bottom line, no one can really say any more what traditional education is, because that rigid thinking does not help the students,” Young said.

“I support public education. I support school choice. And I will continue to support education funding that helps the child succeed, whatever format that is and (whatever) is best for them.”

Young also said choice programs are making public education better.

“There is only one test given to a sampling of students in every state, and that is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Fifteen years ago, Florida students were ranked 38th … Now, Florida is ranked fifth. That means the system we have works for the students.”

Cruz, the House District 62 incumbent, spoke with Lt. Governor nominee Chris King at an event touting the Gillum/King ticket’s education platform that would put $1 billion into education by raising corporate tax rates by 2 percent.

Cruz acknowledged implementing Gillum’s plan might be a tough climb in a Republican-majority Legislature, but said a Gillum win creates two wins for Democrats. 

It gives veto power over what many in the party see as damaging education proposals, and it gives Democrats a better shot at having a seat at the table in 2020 when district lines are redrawn.

“Democrats and Republicans in this state are nearly equal,” Cruz said. “Yet Republicans control (a huge) majority of the House.”

Meet Rob Levy, Democrat running for Florida Senate District 25

Just like in 2016, we’re again asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running. If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.

Significant other? Kids?

Married to Oksana Massey, who is a nurse. I have three (31, 26, 24) and three step-children (24, 19, 17).

Education background? Professional background?

Education: Bachelor of Science, University of Miami; Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Des Moines University;  Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Health Services Management, Duke University.

Professional background: Established a single-office primary care practice in Port St. Lucie in 1983. By the 1990s, it had grown to a multisite practice with 13 physicians and 3 allied health care professionals serving more than 30,000 patients in the areas of internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, cardiology, and gastroenterology. It became part of Martin Memorial in 1997, but I have continued practicing, as a volunteer physician at Volunteers in Medicine, the clinic where residents of Martin County without private health insurance who do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare can receive comprehensive, compassionate care at no charge.

I also am an active real estate investor with interests in Florida, Colorado, and Texas, and recently became a partner in a unique new venture, The Roasted Record. Located in downtown Stuart, I believe it’s the only business of its kind in Florida: a coffee shop that specializes in single-origin specialty grade coffees, roasted in small batches to sounds provided by vinyl records for sale at the store.

What was your first job?

When I was 16, I worked in a pharmacy in the Bronx as a stocker, where I made $5 per hour.

In 25 words or less, why are you running for office?

As a physician, a father and a businessman, I’m sick and tired of politicians who are all talk and no action while our river reeks with algae, millions of people go without access to healthcare, and our schools and teachers are denied the support they deserve.

Who do you count on for advice?

For wisdom and guidance, it was my beloved father until he passed away, four years ago. Now it is my spouse.

Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?

John Jones; Jake Sanders

Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?

I am fortunate in that I was able to launch my campaign myself, and I did so because I felt I should invest in myself before I asked others to.

Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?

Thanks to one-party rule in Florida for the last 20 years, I have no role models in state government.

What are 3 issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”)

Expand Medicaid and obtain a waiver for the ACA so that all Floridians have access to healthcare; fully fund both Florida Forever and Florida Water & Land Legacy Amendment (Amendment I); Reverse legislative practice of stealing tax dollars and Lottery money from public schools and giving it to private/for-profit/religious schools

What is a “disruptive” issue (i.e., ride-sharing) you are interested in?

In two words: gun safety — meaning a ban on assault weapons, meaningful background checks, and closing the gun-show loophole. My goal is to get an “F” from Marion Hammer before I am sworn in as a Senator.

Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?

Certainly not the current one. I’d call it a tie between Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles.

Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?

Due to environmental concerns, they are just a small component. We only encourage them on personal property, in residential yards.

What’s the first thing you read each morning?

The Stuart News

Where do you get your political news?

Florida Politics, NY Times and Politico.

Social media presence? Twitter handle?

Our campaign is active on Facebook and Instagram, with just a bit of Twitter activity, but I do not have a handle myself.

In 280 characters, what’s a tweet that best describes your campaign message?

Expand Medicaid and obtain an ACA waiver. Fund and implement all solutions for Lake O, our rivers, and the Everglades as fast as possible. Repair the damage done to our environmental agencies over the last eight years, and stop robbing our public schools of tax dollars.  


Running, cooking, golf. I log 3 miles a day and do most of the cooking at my house. My golf game, however, has suffered of late as campaigning has cut into it.

Favorite sport and sports team?

Baseball; New York Yankees.

Central Florida hoteliers back Manny Diaz, Dana Young, Stockton Reeves

The Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association announced five new endorsements following Tuesday’s primaries, including state Sen. Dana Young and state Rep. Manny Diaz for the Florida Senate and Stockton Reeves VI for the Florida House.

The association, a powerful interest group in Central Florida’s tourism-based economy, also announced endorsements of Pete Crotty for the Orange County Commission’s District 3 seat and Melissa Byrd for the Orange County School Board District 7 seat.

On Tuesday neither Young nor Diaz, both Republicans, had primary opponents, and neither are running in districts in Central Florida, yet the area’s hoteliers offered their backing. Young now faces Democratic state Rep. Janet Cruz in the contest for Senate District 18. Diaz will go up against Democrat David Pérez for the Senate District 36 seat.

Reeves defeated Mikaela Nix in the Republican primary and now faces Democrat Anna Eskamani in the House District 47 race.

In the county elections Tuesday, Crotty finished second to Mayra Uribe. Since neither got a majority of votes on Tuesday, the two are headed to a Nov. 6 runoff election.

Byrd finished first in the Orange County School board election Tuesday. Since she did not get a majority, she and second-place finisher Eric Schwalbach move on to the Nov. 6 runoff.

This past spring the hotel association announced earlier endorsements including Jerry Demings for mayor and Teresa Jacobs for school board chair. Those two and others won Tuesday while most backed by the hoteliers moved on to the Nov. 6 election. The group said there may be more post-primary endorsements coming.

Jason Pizzo victorious over Daphne Campbell in SD 38

Attorney Jason Pizzo has knocked incumbent state Sen. Daphne Campbell out of the Florida Legislature, defeating her in the Democratic primary for Senate District 38 Tuesday night.

After all the votes were counted, Pizzo led Campbell 54 percent to 46 percent among Miami-Dade voters.

“We overcame challenges and obstacles, and now we’re ready to lead our community and represent it in Tallahassee,” Pizzo said after the victory. “In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to working with you and with my fellow Senators to realize progress for our friends, family, and neighbors.

Pizzo will now take over Campbell’s District 38 seat because no Republicans filed to run in the race. That made Tuesday’s vote the de facto general election for this seat.

The contest served as a rematch from 2016, when Jason Pizzo was one of five people to challenge Campbell for the nomination. Pizzo was able to go one-on-one with the incumbent this time, and that was enough to turn the race in his favor.

The contentiousness of the primary rematch was evident when the pair sat down for a discussion on CBS Miami’s Facing South Florida.

Campbell called Pizzo a “liar” for attacking her over video showing Campbell receiving a Kate Spade purse during her 60th birthday party from a man who then shoved a wad of cash inside. Campbell did not report the money.

That instance is just one of several controversies Campbell was forced to answer for during the campaign, including allegations that Campbell moved multiple times over the years, at times outside the boundaries of her district.

Those issues and others led Pizzo to accuse Campbell of being “distracted by personal gain and graft.”

Pizzo had the money advantage heading into Tuesday’s vote, even adding another $30,000 of his own money with less than a week to go.

Equality Florida Action PAC, which backed Pizzo in the race, released a statement on his victory.

“Jason Pizzo’s victory sends the clear signal that voters in Florida reject anti-LGBTQ extremism,” said Stratton Pollitzer, Equality Florida Action PAC Chair.

“Even before Daphne declared ‘the gays have their rights and I have mine,’ Equality Florida Action PAC had committed $25,000 to mobilizing our 10,000 pro-LGBTQ voters in District 38. This was a line in the sand race for our community and we couldn’t be happier to welcome Jason Pizzo, and the values he represents, to the Florida Capitol.”

For Our Future Florida also jumped in to congratulate Pizzo on the win.

“For too long, Tallahassee politicians have worked to benefit the wealthy and well-connected while everyday families in this state get left behind,” said the group’s state director, Ashley Walker.

“Jason Pizzo promises to bring new ethical leadership to Tallahassee, work to address climate change, protect health care coverage, and shift the focus back on working Floridians who increasingly find it harder to make ends meet in Florida’s low-wage economy.”

Gary Farmer wins easy in SD 34

Gary Farmer has lapped Jim Waldman in the Democratic primary for Senate District 34. With 98 of precincts reporting, Farmer ended miles ahead of Waldman, beating him 70 percent to 30 percent.

This contest was a rematch of 2016, when Waldman, along with Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, challenged Farmer for the Democratic nomination.

Farmer faced a barrage of attack ads throughout this campaign. Multiple mysterious money groups commissioned those ads against Farmer. Waldman denied any ties to those groups.

One in particular, paid by political committee Moms Speak Out, labeled Farmer a “sexist” and “obnoxious” over comments he made regarding state Sen. Lauren Book.

Back in March, Farmer reportedly pushed back against Book’s consideration for a Senate leadership post, implying her responsibilities as a mother may get in the way. Those comments caused Farmer to lose the support of state Sen. Kevin Rader. Farmer later apologized for the comments.

However, those negative ads didn’t appear to be enough to bring down the incumbent. Polling in early August, following the release of the ads, showed Farmer extending his lead.

Richard Hal Sturm filed to run as a write-in candidate, but is unlikely to put up much of a challenge to Farmer come Nov. 6.

Gayle Harrell tops Belinda Keiser in SD 25

State Rep. Gayle Harrell has earned the chance for a promotion to the state Senate in November, defeating Belinda Keiser in the GOP primary for Senate District 25.

Harrell ended the night with 56 percent of the vote, while Keiser earned 44 percent despite Keiser dumping $1.6 million into her campaign account.

The pair were running for the right to compete for the seat held by Senate President Joe Negron, whose term ends this year. Negron decided to retire rather than serve out the remainder of his Senate term, which runs through 2020.

Bill Galvano, the Senate-President-designate, issued a statement Tuesday night congratulating Harrell on her victory.

“Gayle has been a tireless leader on the Treasure Coast, and having served with her in the Florida House, I have seen her hard work and commitment as a public servant firsthand. I look forward to campaigning with her as we head toward the general election,” Galvano said.

Harrell has served two eight-year terms in the Florida House. The most recent stretch began in 2010, meaning Harrell would have been term-limited this year. So she sought to leave House District 83 for a position in the state Senate.

Keiser, who served as vice chancellor of Keiser University, used a large amount of self-funding to help finance her run. Nevertheless, a poll released a week before Tuesday’s vote showed her trailing Harrell by a large margin.

Both candidates put their support of Donald Trump at the forefront of their campaigns. But Keiser was also hit over her past affiliations with Democrats.

Harrell will take on Rob Levy, a Stuart Democrat, who ran unopposed in his primary. The district leans Republican, however, having voted for Rick Scott in 2010, Mitt Romney in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016.

Bill Galvano continues fundraising streak for Senate campaign arm

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano on Friday said he helped reel in more than $7.2 million over the last four months for the main political committee supporting Republican state Senate campaigns.

The finance report for the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (FRSCC) had not been uploaded to the Division of Elections public website as of Friday afternoon, but the claimed total for the pre-primary reporting period blows away the $5.17 million total FRSCC posted ahead of the 2016 primary election — and that cycle saw all 40 state Senate seats up for grabs.

The new report covers April 1 through Aug. 23.

Galvano, who represents Senate District 21, said his own political committee, Innovate Florida, had a similarly prolific run. Unlike FRSCC, a party affiliated committee, Innovate Florida is required to file finance reports more frequently.

Still, during the same April to August stretch, the political committee tacked on more than $500,000.

“We are pleased to report today the significant support we have received — not only during this reporting period, but for the entire 2018 cycle leading up to the general election,” Galvano said in a press release.

“We will continue to make sure our Republican candidates have the resources they need to win. We have an outstanding ground game, qualified and dedicated candidates, and continue to have the support we need to get their message out.”

The new report for Innovate Florida showed $175,000 in new money raised between Aug. 11 and Aug. 23. That haul was brought in across six checks:

— A $65,000 contribution from the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a public employee union;

— A $50,000 check from Floridians United for Our Children’s Future, a political committee chaired by Ryan Tyson, the VP of political operations for Associated Industries of Florida;

— $25,000 from telecom giant Charter Communications;

— $15,000 from Publix veep Hoyt Barnett;

— $15,000 from a political committee tied to the Florida Chamber of Commerce; and

— $5,000 from rail company Florida East Coast Industries (FEC).

Innovate Florida’s ledger shows about $43,000 in spending during the reporting period, including a $25,000 check to Let’s Grow Florida, one of the political committees supporting Sebring state Sen. Denise Grimsley in her statewide bid for Agriculture Commissioner.

Galvano and his likely successor as Senate President, Trilby Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson, have publicly endorsed Grimsley in the four-way Republican primary for the Cabinet seat.

Galvano’s committee had a little over $344,000 in the bank five days out from the primary election. FRSCC’s current on-hand tally is unknown, though it had nearly $2.3 million in its coffers at the end of March.

While the Innovate Florida cash came in from just a handful of donors, Galvano said that won’t be the case when the FRSCC report pops later today.

“I am also happy to report we have gained an influx of new, individual supporters who have contributed significantly to our fundraising efforts, demonstrating that support for Senate Republicans is growing and that Floridians from all corners of the state are contributing to our efforts to maintain our Republican majority in the Florida Senate,” he said.

“The combined effort of not only FRSCC and Innovate Florida, but also other fundraising activities by Senate Republicans, clearly shows a unified Republican Senate as we prepare to head into the general election.”

Still, as previously reported, finance reports from other committees reveal many of the FRSCC contributions have come in from known players. Simpson has kicked in $500,000 through his committee, Jobs for Florida, while the Florida Chamber, AIF, and the Florida Medical Association PAC have each broached six-figures.

Fleming Island Sen. Rob Bradley has also chipped in substantially through his committee, Working for Florida’s Families. He gave $375,000 to FRSCC during the April to August period, including $275,000 during July alone.

The prolific fundraising effort makes for more than $14 million raised for FRSCC since Galvano took over as the funds fundraising head last year, including another record-breaking haul in the third quarter of 2017.

The cash comes in as senate Republicans are gearing up for tough re-election fights in seven GOP-held districts, including Gainesville-based SD 8, the Tampa Bay area’s SD 18 and SD 24, as well as Lakeland-based SD 22.

Florida Democrats are also making a play for the open SD 16, where former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy is running against former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, and SD 36, where state Rep. Manny Diaz faces a pair Democrats vying to block his ascension to the Senate.

The next finance report for FRSCC is due to the state on Nov. 2, just a few days ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.

Karen Giorno denies being paid to endorse Florida candidates

Former Donald Trump campaign strategist Karen Giorno is denying accusations that she was paid in exchange for endorsing Florida Senate candidate Belinda Keiser and Florida House candidate Toby Overdorf.

That’s according to a story by reporter Jose Lambiet.

According to the Florida Division of Elections, Keiser made a payment on July 16 of $70,325 to Kingston Public Affairs. That payment’s purpose was listed as “political consulting.”

Kingston Public Affairs is a New Jersey-based firm owned by Giorno.

Just over two weeks prior to the payment, Giorno gave a ringing endorsement for Keiser’s campaign to take Senate District 25.

“We need someone like Belinda who is not beholden to special interests or party bosses, and knows that she is a public servant,” Giorno said.

According to Lambiet, that payment of more than $70,000 “is unusually high for political consulting.” While it came after Giorno’s formal endorsement, Lambiet argues the timing is conspicuous.

Giorno also recently endorsed Overdorf, who denies he received any benefit from Keiser’s payment to Giorno.

“I’ve known Karen [Giorno] for a couple of years now,” Overdorf said. “I did not pay for the endorsement, nor have I paid for any endorsement of my campaign. I would reject any endorsement that was paid for.”

House District 83, which Overdorf is competing for, overlaps with SD 25. Florida Politics reached out to Keiser for comment; we still are awaiting a reply.

Giorno is a controversial figure in pro-Trump circles. She was removed from Trump’s Florida operation in 2016. Yet her endorsement of Overdorf described herself as a “Trump campaign leader.”

“I am aware she does not work for Trump now, and I have no reason to believe she was ever fired from any campaign,” Overdorf said of Giorno.

Former Palm Beach Gardens Councilwoman Annie Marie Delgado, a Trump supporter, says Giorno is a “pathological liar” who was “divisive and derisive” during the campaign.

“I’m shocked, quite frankly, that this woman continues to portray herself as part of the Trump campaign, or as connected to Trump in any way whatsoever,” Delgado said of Giorno.

Giorno says the payment from Keiser was on the up-and-up, and went toward targeting voters online. She says she believes in the campaigns of Keiser and Overdorf, in part due to their support of the President.

“Both were there for the Trump campaign from the start, at a time when few people wanted to be involved,” Giorno said, according to Lambiet.

“They stand for the Trump agenda.”

Daphne Campbell and Jason Pizzo trade barbs in CBS Miami debate

With just over a week left until the Aug. 28 election in Senate District 38, incumbent state Sen. Daphne Campbell and challenger Jason Pizzo appeared on Facing South Florida Sunday morning for a televised back-and-forth between the two candidates.

While the general election is not until Nov. 6, next week’s primary day will decide the future state Senator from this district, as no Republicans filed to run. That leaves the contest for the Democratic nomination between Campbell and Pizzo as the only election in the area.

Jim DeFede, host of the CBS Miami program, moderated the discussion between the two. And it was apparent throughout that Campbell struggled to answer DeFede’s questions.

This was most evident during a discussion on LGBTQ rights. DeFede appeared to trip up Campbell on the issue of same-sex marriage and gay adoptions, eliciting a confusing set of answers on the topic.

DeFede pressed Campbell on her 2015 vote to maintain a ban on gay adoptions.

“The gay people have their rights, I have my rights,” Campbell responded as justification for her vote, which again, would have denied those rights to gay couples.

“I took an oath to serve everyone. I don’t discriminate. I have gay people working in my office. I have gay friends. But they have their rights, I have my rights.”

“But again, in 2015, you voted on House Bill 7013, which would’ve kept the ban [on gay adoptions] in place,” DeFede responded. “So that’s you voting to say your beliefs are more important than their rights.”

“No, that’s not true,” replied Campbell.

“This is Constitutional rights and this is freedom of speech, freedom of religion,” she said of her ability to express her views.

DeFede also brought up her cosponsorship of a “bathroom bill” in 2015, which would have barred transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice.

On this topic, Campbell was much more clear on her position.

“Everywhere you go, they say, ‘woman’s bathroom, men’s bathroom.’ If you’re a woman in the bathroom, do you want somebody else to be in the bathroom?”

DeFede replied, “Was this a problem, though, that needed to be legislated?”

“Again, that’s their right,” Campbell responded once again, despite seconds earlier arguing for why she pushed for those rights to be denied via legislation.

She resorted to similar tactics after DeFede posed a question regarding her record on abortion.

“In 2011, you voted to require a woman to have an ultrasound and to listen to a description of the fetus,” DeFede began.

“In 2015, you voted for a 24-hour waiting period for a woman before she could receive an abortion. In 2016, you voted for a bill that would restrict Planned Parenthood from receiving money, even for non-abortion-related items.”

Again, Campbell said of her vote, “Let me make it clear. Yes, women have the choice and they have the right to choose. That’s their body. But I have my choice.”

Pizzo argued that Campbell’s “choice” was in direct conflict with a woman’s right to choose.

“Her votes on particular parts of legislation would seek to abridge and curtail the ability of a woman to have that choice,” Pizzo said.

Pizzo also faced fire from DeFede on Pizzo’s relatively new status as a Democrat.

“Like many judges and many prosecutors, I was nonparty affiliated while I was prosecuting crimes involving the life and liberty of other individuals,” Pizzo said. He previously served as a state prosecutor in Miami-Dade.

“In 2016, I registered as a Democrat to run for this race.” Pizzo lost that primary challenge to Campbell in a crowded Democratic field, but elected to mount another challenge in 2018.

“I have purely Democratic values,” he argued.

To close the debate, DeFede pivoted to multiple ethical issues Campbell has faced during her time in the state legislature.

There was the time Campbell called a Florida Power & Light lobbyist after Hurricane Irma to help get power back at her house for her “sick mom.” Campbell’s mother had been dead for more than 20 years. Campbell argued she used the term “mother” colloquially, referring to an elderly woman who was living with Campbell.

Reports also show Campbell moved multiple times over the years, at times outside the boundaries of her district.

Then, there is the video showing Campbell receiving a Kate Spade purse during her 60th birthday party from a man who then shoved a wad of cash inside. Campbell did not report the money.

“Who edited it?,” Campbell asked as CBS Miami aired the footage, uninterrupted.

She then surprisingly claimed, “The guy didn’t put no money in the purse.” That’s right after the video clearly showed the man placing cash directly into the purse.

Campbell immediately pivoted to another explanation, saying it was just a joke. “The purse belonged to his wife. That’s his wife’s purse. He came that night, and it’s a joke.”

She then hit Pizzo for referencing these stories throughout the campaign.

“He’s a liar. He makes up a lot of false stories, of false allegations. And a lot of things he’s saying is not true and for his own benefit.”

“Everything that we send out, that we disseminate, are reprints and reproduction of [news] stories,” Pizzo responded.

“I think the voters need to decide whether they want somebody who’s going to go up to Tallahassee to actually legislate and not be distracted by personal gain and graft and what I believe are unethical practices.”

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