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Jason Pizzo

Senate Democrats holding Tallahassee fundraisers Wednesday, Thursday

Those spending next week in Tallahassee can fill their calendar with a pair of fundraisers for Senate Democrats on Wednesday and Thursday.

The first event will benefit a political committee tied to soon-to-be state Sen. Jason Pizzo, who last month unseated incumbent Sen. Daphne Campbell from Miami-Dade’s Senate District 38 after a 54-46 percent victory in an open Democratic primary.

Pizzo, a former prosecutor, will hold the reception benefitting his Protecting Coastal Communities PAC from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Library of the Governors Club, located at 202 S Adams St. Those looking to attend can send an RSVP to Kay Cook via KCook@EdgeCommFL.com or 571-235-0318.

The second fundraiser will benefit the re-election campaign of Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo, who faces Republican challenger Marili Cancio in the Nov. 6 general election for Senate District 40.

Her event, billed as the “1st Annual Parrot Heat Frozen Concoction Celebration,” will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Florida Professional Firefighters headquarters, 343 W Madison St. Like Pizzo’s event, those planning to swing by can send a note or drop a line to Kay Cook.

Taddeo flipped SD 40 in a special election just under a year ago, but Cancio has been able to raise $273,700 between her campaign and political committee, Friends of Marili Cancio, and has about $260,500 of that cash in the bank.

Still, Taddeo has the fundraising advantage in the swing seat with a combined $478,275 banked between her campaign account and political committee, Fight Back Florida.

The invitations to both events are below.

Pizzo fundraiser 9.19.2018

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.”

Jason Pizzo

Jason Pizzo pours another $30K into campaign ahead of SD 38 primary

Miami attorney Jason Pizzo put some more of his own money down heading into the final five days before the Democratic primary for Senate District 38.

Pizzo, a former prosecutor, lent his campaign another $30,000 and added $18,179 in outside money during the reporting period covering Aug. 11 through Aug. 23, bringing his to-date fundraising total to $491,650 including $350,000 in candidate loans.

The haul included a dozen max checks from some big-name donors, including three subsidiaries of Disney and a political committee tied to labor union SEIU, while the $56,000 spending tally included $23,600 in payments to MDW Communications for direct mailers and digital ads.

As of midnight Aug. 23, Pizzo had $46,850 at the ready.

Pizzo, the second place finisher in the 2016 SD 38 Democratic primary, going for a rematch against Democratic Sen. Daphne Campbell in the Miami Dade-based district, and a recent poll of the race showed him with a 14-point lead among likely primary voters.

If Campbell were to make a come-from-behind victory on Tuesday, she’d have to do it on a shoestring budget.

She showed $11,025 in new money in her final report and has now raised $146,494 overall, all of it from donors. That may best Pizzo’s outside fundraising, but when loans are included her campaign has been working less than a third of the resources.

And for the final five days, the campaign will only have $8,382 to send Campbell back to Tallahassee or send her home, wherever home may be.

SD 38 is a Democratic stronghold that covers parts of Miami-Dade County including Miami Beach, North Miami and Bal Harbour.

Campbell and Pizzo, both Democrats, are the only candidates for the seat. The Florida Constitution allows non-party members to participate in primary races if they will decide the winner of an election, so the SD 38 election will be open to all voters, regardless of party affiliation.

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.”

Jason Pizzo approaches primary with large cash lead over Daphne Campbell

As Jason Pizzo and Daphne Campbell face off for the de facto general election race on Aug. 28, Pizzo earns the advantage when it comes to cash on hand to close out the contest. That’s according to the most recent filings with the Florida Division of Elections.

The pair of Democrats are the only candidates filed to run in the race for the Senate District 38 seat, currently held by Campbell. That means the winner of the primary will determine who is holding this seat next session.

Pizzo maintains more than $50,000 cash on hand himself, with another few thousand available in a pair of committees associated with his campaign.

Campbell, meanwhile, has just over $3,000 available in her campaign. An associated committee, Millennials for Change PC, has spent more money than it’s taken in.

Looking at the most recently reported fundraising period, from Aug. 4 to Aug. 10, Pizzo’s campaign took in $2,115 in outside contributions, with Pizzo chipping in another $20,000 in self-funding.

Much of that $2,115 was made up of contributions from individuals. Another $1,000 came from a group called the Florida Laborers Political Committee. All-in-all, Pizzo has raised more than $123,000 in outside contributions while adding a total of $320,000 of loans to his campaign.

Pizzo spent nearly $17,000 during the last reporting period. More than $8,400 of that went to a direct mail campaign. Another $5,000 was spent on voter outreach. Pizzo’s campaign has put nearly $400,000 into this race throughout the cycle.

New Leadership for Florida, an associated committee, was quiet during the Aug. 4 to Aug. 10 period. The organization took in no money and spent just $10,000 in a contribution to another committee. To date, the group has brought in just under $230,000 while spending just over $228,000.

Protecting Coastal Communities PAC, the second committee associated with Pizzo’s campaign, had no reported activity in the most recent period. Overall, that committee has brought in $24,500 while spending $21,000.

As for Campbell, she took in just over $7,800 in the last period. A little less than $1,500 of that came from individual donors. The NFIB chipped in $1,000. The Florida Internet and Television Association added another $500. Another $3,000 came from various corporations, including some from the farming industry.

Campbell burned through just over $6,500 during the same period, mostly on campaign staff and canvassing.

Overall, Campbell has raised more than $135,000 while spending more than $132,000 of that.

Millennials for Change PC dropped $10,000 last period on consulting. It has raised just over $120,000 but has spent nearly $123,000.

That leaves Campbell with a net of a few hundred dollars for the close of the campaign, while Pizzo has just over $55,000 available between his campaign and the above-mentioned committees.

A new poll also showed Pizzo with a double-digit lead over Campbell. He led the incumbent 40 percent to 26 percent, with 34 percent still undecided.

Jason Pizzo primed to unseat Daphne Campbell, poll says

Miami Democratic Sen. Daphne Campbell may end up packing her bags and heading home, wherever home is, as former prosecutor Jason Pizzo takes her spot in Tallahassee.

According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, conducted Aug. 16, Pizzo leads Campbell by 14 points among Senate District 38’s likely primary election voters, about a third of whom said they were undecided less than two weeks out from the Aug. 28 nominating contest.

Of the 42 percent of voters who said they’d already ticked a box and sent in their ballot, Pizzo led 42-32 percent with 26 percent saying they were “undecided.”

It’s unclear whether being “undecided” and having already voted means those electors left their ballot blank, picked both, drew a picture, filled it out with their eyes closed or are simply suffering from memory loss. No matter the reason, Pizzo looks to have a solid lead in the early vote.

Among those who plan to vote but haven’t yet, Pizzo’s lead balloons to 16 points, 38-22 percent, though undecideds also make up a higher share, with 40 percent saying they were still unsure.

Of note: The two-way primary for SD 38 is one of a handful of primaries statewide that’ll be open to all voters, regardless of party affiliation. Campbell and Pizzo, both Democrats, are the only candidates for the seat and the Florida Constitution allows non-party members to participate in primary races if they will decide the winner of an election.

To that end, Pizzo’s support crosses party lines. He leads 40-26 percent among Democrats, 43-23 percent among Republicans and 39-32 percent among unaffiliated and third-party voters.

Pizzo also demolishes Campbell among white voters, with more than half favoring him compared to just 19 percent for Campbell, and Hispanic voters, who prefer him by a 13-point margin.

Add to that his strong leads among women voters, who prefer him by a 12-point margin, and among men, who favor him over the incumbent 44-28 percent. The Miami Law School grad is can also celebrate what looks to be strong cross-generational support, with his campaign holding double digit leads among millennials, gen xers and boomers. The 70-and-up crowd were only slightly less enthusiastic, preferring him 36-27 percent.

Black voters were the only subset where Campbell was the pick, and it’s not clear yet if that’s a bright spot.

According to census data, SD 38’s voting age population is nearly one-third black, while non-black Hispanic voters make up a 37 percent share and white voters make up 27 percent.

Without enormous turnout, the 42 percent of undecided black voters would need to break strongly in her favor to bolster her current 35-24 lead or she’ll have to make up ground by cutting into Pizzo’s firm leads among white and Hispanic voters.

When it comes to voter outreach in the final stretch, Campbell’s campaign fund is nearly bone dry. As of Aug. 10, she had just $4,260 in the bank. Add on top recent scandals, including touting a false endorsement and calling the police on a Miami Herald reporter covering a public event, and her campaign looks like it’s in freefall rather than surging toward a hard-fought victory.

Pizzo, meanwhile, has juiced his campaign with $300,000 in loans and had nearly $50,000 banked on Aug. 10. In addition to having outspent Campbell by a nearly threefold margin, outside groups are pouring in more support to help him close the deal.

The St. Pete Polls survey took responses from 306 voters within the northern Miami-Dade district. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Equality Florida pledges $25k to elect Jason Pizzo, savages incumbent Daphne Campbell

Jason Pizzo has already earned the endorsement of Equality Florida in his race to boot state Sen. Daphne Campbell from her Senate District 38 seat.

Now, the Equality Florida Action PAC is promising $25,000 in support of Pizzo’s election.

The PAC plans to spend the money on a “program to turn out pro-equality voters in Miami-Dade County” to support Pizzo’s Democratic primary challenge.

SD 38 covers portions of Miami-Dade County including Miami Beach and North Miami.

“Equality Florida’s primary program in Senate District 38 will focus on roughly ten thousand pro-equality voters and will include mail, phone calls and mobilizing LGBTQ community support,” read the group’s release.

That mailer includes a side-by-side of the candidates positions on LGBT rights, arguing that Pizzo would better represent the community on these issues.

“Jason Pizzo is exactly the kind of pro-equality leader we need and deserve in Tallahassee,” said Stratton Pollitzer, chair of the PAC.

Pollitzer also had harsh words for Campbell, criticizing her record on LGBTQ rights: “Unlike his opponent, Jason has pledged to fight for statewide LGBTQ non-discrimination protections and to guard against any attack on marriage equality.”

The group savaged Campbell over her past votes. The PAC highlighted her vote supporting a GOP-backed abortion bill in 2011, along with her opposition to a repeal of Florida’s ban on gay adoption in 2015.

“We are going to use every resource we have to make sure voters in this district know that we have a clear choice between a pro-equality champion like Jason Pizzo and an anti-LGBTQ extremist,” Pollitzer added.

Pizzo and Campbell are the only candidates running in SD 38. The district’s primary vote will take place on Aug. 28.

Daphne Campbell campaign apologizes for mistaken endorsement

In response to reporting from Florida Politics on Thursday, the Daphne Campbell campaign has issued a formal apology for falsely claiming the endorsement of Aventura City Commissioner Robert Shelley.

Shelley endorsed Jason Pizzo, Campbell’s Democratic primary opponent in Senate District 38. Yet Shelley’s face remains on a campaign flyer being sent out by the Campbell campaign touting several different endorsements of her re-election bid.

It is against Florida election law to falsely claim an endorsement from someone without signed documentation. Violators can face civil penalties.

In a letter addressed to Commissioner Shelley, obtained by Florida Politics, Campbell campaign manager Maxo Sinal apologizes for the erroneous claim and explains how Shelley’s face ended up on that flyer.

Sen. Campbell “is deeply sorry for an incident that involves your name and your picture,” Sinal says.

“A file that included all of our endorsements was given to campaign staff to prepare an endorsement list since our communications director has left the campaign to go back to school. 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.”

That reference to Shelley removing his endorsement of Senator Campbell refers to reporting from early July, where Shelley’s office appeared to send out signed endorsement letters to both the Campbell and Pizzo campaigns.

At the time, Shelley clarified the issue by noting he was backing Pizzo, and the letter to Campbell was sent in error. “By the time we uncovered the mistake, it was already distributed,” says Sinal of the flyer.

“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.”

Shelley had requested a formal apology in response to the news his image was still being used by the Campbell campaign. In comments to Florida Politics, he says he is “glad they acknowledged the mistake” and accepts the campaign’s apology. Shelley is currently running for re-election to the Aventura City Commission.

Daphne Campbell continues to claim nonexistent endorsement from Aventura pol

(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.”

Jason Pizzo

Eileen Higgins gets behind Jason Pizzo in SD 38

Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins, who won a shock victory in the District 5 special election back in June, says she’s endorsing Jason Pizzo in the Democratic primary for Senate District 38.

Pizzo is facing off against incumbent state Sen. Daphne Campbell in the race. But despite Campbell’s incumbency, Higgins says she’s supporting the challenger in a statement released Friday.

“Our community deserves an honest, dedicated state senator fighting for us and Jason Pizzo will be that state senator,” said Higgins.

“Over the years, I’ve seen Jason’s passion and unwavering commitment to making our neighborhoods safer. I know he won’t stop when he gets to Tallahassee.”

Pizzo works as an attorney in Miami; he graduated from the University of Miami School of Law. He praised Higgins for her efforts in her surprise win, where she defeated Zoraida Barreiro in a runoff election for the District 5 seat.

“Commissioner Higgins reaffirmed that voters want honest, authentic leaders who are accountable to the community they serve,” said Pizzo.

“I share her conviction that public service is bigger than just one person, which is why I’m honored to have her support in the home stretch of our campaign. We can deliver a better future for our children, and it starts on Aug. 28 with our vote.”

Pizzo hasn’t been shy about spending money to take over this seat. He recently added another $125,000 in self-loans to his campaign.

SD 38 covers parts of Miami-Dade County including Miami Beach, North Miami and Bal Harbour. No Republicans filed to run in the race, leaving Pizzo and Campbell as the only two declared candidates.

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