Jason Pizzo Archives - Florida Politics

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.

Jason Pizzo

Jason Pizzo adds another $125k in loans to his campaign

Jason Pizzo has added another $125,000 in loans to his campaign in an effort to unseat state Sen. Daphne Campbell in Senate District 38.

The newest self-funding spree came during the period of July 7 to July 20, according to a recent report filed with the Florida Division of Elections. He also added more than $5,000 in outside donations during that period.

Pizzo, a Miami attorney, has now poured in $275,000 in self-loans, on top of more than $110,000 in donations.

He’s also spent more than $260,000 of that money, including more than $60,000 last period. Much of his recent expenditures have gone toward direct mail and door hangers (more than $31,000), canvassing ($4,335) and voter outreach ($4,000).

During the same period, Campbell raised just over $7,000 in donations while spending more than $11,000. That’s yet another financial period where Campbell has spent more than she’s taken in.

The majority of Campbell’s expenditures from last period were used to pay consultants ($4,350) and work on advertisements (more than $3,200).

Pizzo is challenging Campbell in the SD 38 Democratic primary after losing a similar bid in 2016. However, that field featured six challengers, whereas this year’s election in a one-on-one contest between he and Campbell.

No Republican filed to run in the race.

SD 38 covers parts of Miami-Dade County including Miami Beach, North Miami and Bal Harbour. The primary election will be held Aug. 28.

Jason Pizzo

South Florida firefighters back Jason Pizzo for SD 38

The South Florida Council of Fire Fighters is backing former prosecutor Jason Pizzo in his bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Daphne Campbell in the Senate District 38 primary.

“The South Florida Council of Firefighters, representing nearly 3,500 firefighters and their families, commend Jason Pizzo on his willingness to run for and serve in public office, and because of that we wish to endorse him and offer our support to his campaign to become the next Florida State Senator in District 38,” council president John O’Brien said.

“We appreciate his support in helping firefighters overcome the varying challenges facing our members and we look forward to working with him to guarantee top quality fire/rescue services to his constituents. We know that Jason’s heart is in the right place and we will be encouraging our members to support him.”

The firefighter nod is the latest in long list of endorsements for Pizzo, an attorney who was the second-place finisher in the 2016 Democratic primary for the Miami-Dade seat.

Prior labor union endorsements have come in from AFSCME, the Florida Education Association, the United Teachers of Dade and the Florida AFL-CIO, with other backers including LGBTQ rights group Equality Florida, Miami Gardens state Rep. Barbara Watson and an assortment of local elected officials.

“Our firefighters and first responders in Miami-Dade deserve a champion in Tallahassee who will fight for them. They put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe and protect our families,” Pizzo said. “As the next state senator for District 38, I will do the same with every vote I take and decision I make.”

Pizzo and Campbell are the only candidates vying for SD 38. Since no other candidates qualified for the race, state law will allow all voters, regardless of party affiliation, to cast a ballot in the Aug. 28 primary election.

As of July 20, Campbell had raised about $118,000 for her re-election campaign and had about $20,500 in the bank. Pizzo has not yet filed his report for the middle two weeks of July, but as of last check-in he had raised $106,000 in outside money and kicked in another $150,000 in loans. He had a little over $53,000 in the bank on July 6.

SD 38 covers parts of Miami-Dade County including Miami Beach, North Miami and Bal Harbour. It is a Democratic stronghold that voted plus-52 for Hillary Clinton two years ago.

Pair of Miami Beach pols back Jason Pizzo

Jason Pizzo continues to add support for his campaign against incumbent state Sen. Daphne Campbell, as he earned the endorsements of two Miami Beach politicians Thursday.

Mayor Dan Gelber and Commissioner Micky Steinberg of Miami Beach both say they’re backing Pizzo in his race for the Senate District 38 seat. Pizzo, a Miami attorney, is challenging Campbell in the Democratic primary.

“I am proud to endorse Jason Pizzo,” said Mayor Gelber. “Jason has a pronounced sense of social justice and the background and training of a prosecutor to allow him to effectively advocate for so many of the critical issues important to our residents.”

Gelber previously served in the Florida Senate, representing District 35 from 2008-10. Prior to that, he represented House District 106 in 2000-08. In 2010, Gelber ran for Attorney General, losing to current AG Pam Bondi.

Added Steinberg: “Jason knows that education is the single best investment we can make in our future, which is why I’m proud to endorse his campaign.

“As our next state senator, he’ll fight for every resident in District 38 to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to get ahead. I look forward to tackling our community’s challenges together.”

The two add to a long list of South Florida officials supporting Pizzo in his primary challenge. SD 38 covers parts of Miami-Dade County including Miami Beach, North Miami and Bal Harbour.

“I am proud and humbled to have the support of Mayor Gelber and Commissioner Steinberg,” said Pizzo.

“Together, we will work to bring needed reforms to Tallahassee and ensure that communities like Miami Beach are well represented.”

No Republicans filed to run in SD 38, leaving Pizzo and Campbell to battle it out on their own. The primary election will be held Aug. 28.

Whoops! Aventura pol says Daphne Campbell endorsement was by mistake

State Sen. Daphne Campbell announced Monday that she had earned four new endorsements from South Florida commissioners in her run for re-election.

Now, it appears one of those endorsements was sent out in error.

Aventura Commissioner Robert Shelley says he is not backing Campbell’s re-election in Senate District 38, but is instead supporting her opponent, Miami attorney Jason Pizzo.

After Florida Politics reported on Campbell’s announcement Monday, the Pizzo campaign produced a signed letter that showed, in fact, Shelley had endorsed Pizzo’s campaign back in April.

We reached out to the Campbell campaign to get a response, and it turns out they too had a signed letter from Commissioner Shelley from June indicating his support for her SD 38 bid.

Shelley spoke to Florida Politics to clear up the confusion, saying his letter of support to the Campbell campaign was likely sent out due to some sort of miscommunication between the two offices.

“I’m not sure how it happened,” said Shelley, noting he is currently out of the country on a trip to London. Asked if he had sent an endorsement letter to the Campbell campaign, he said, “No, absolutely not.”

Shelley says Campbell isn’t to blame, instead it was likely a mistake by his office. “I think it was just a misunderstanding.”

Nevertheless, he says he stands behind his support of Pizzo.

Pizzo is challenging Campbell in the Democratic primary for SD 38 for the second time, after she defeated him and four other challengers back in 2016. The 2018 primary election will be held Aug. 28.

Daphne Campbell

Report: Daphne Campbell may have lived outside of her district for years

Democratic Sen. Daphne Campbell is the latest lawmaker to face questions about whether she lives in the district she represents in the Florida Legislature.

While it’s not unheard of for lawmakers to keep their home while living in a rented residence in the district they represent, Sarah Blaskey and David Smiley of the Miami Herald report that Campbell may have treated the residency requirement as a mere formality since as far back as 2012, when redistricting shifted the lines of her former seat in the Florida House to exclude the Carll Heights home she owned until recently.

Campbell has listed four home addresses on official paperwork since then, and she may not have lived in any of them. Her former campaign manager, Nacivre “Charlie” Charles, said as much when contacted by the Herald’s reporters.

“Since redistricting [House District] 108, she wasn’t living there” in her district, Charles said, asserting that she’s spent the last 30 months living in her true home, well outside the confines of northeastern Miami-Dade’s Senate District 38.

Charles said he stopped working for Campbell after the 2016 election, citing $20,000 in unpaid invoices. He now works for Campbell’s 2018 Democratic primary challenger, Jason Pizzo.

Addresses Campbell has used since 2012 include the Ebenezer Christian Academy. The school’s founder, Emy Etienne, said he agreed to let Campbell use the property without a lease and never told anyone about the arrangement, even his adopted son, Roberto Joseph.

“We’ve never rented it out,” he said. “She never lived there.”

Other addresses Campbell has used: A duplex owned by Gepsie Metellus and her husband, Gerard Metellus; an Arch Creek Estates home owned by radio host Carline Paul; and most recently a Panuleta Gardens home owned by Sonia Remy Casimir.

Campbell uses the Metellus’ address on her voter registration but when asked, they said they couldn’t verify whether Campbell ever lived at the home, and another tenant who used the address concurrently said she never met Campbell. Paul said Campbell never moved in to the home she owns, nor did she pay the security deposit or sign the lease. Casimir told reporters that Campbell was her sister and that Campbell does live at the Panulta Gardens address, rent-free and without a lease.

Even though she’s moved a couple times since claiming to live at the Metellus’ duplex, the Herald also found Campbell voted twice from that address during her 2016 campaign. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the illegal act that former HD 114 Rep. Daisy Baez resigned over last year.

Campbell, for her part, denies living outside of SD 38 but didn’t provide any details clarifying her residency.

“I’ve been in office for eight years. I live in the district for eight years,” she said.

The state constitution requires any candidate for the state House or Senate be “at least twenty-one years of age, an elector and resident of the district from which elected and shall have resided in the state for a period of two years prior to election.”

While that allows for Floridians to run for office from afar, as some candidates do, the accepted interpretation requires lawmakers to reside in the district at the time of their election.

Jason Pizzo

Teacher union backs Jason Pizzo for SD 38

The state’s largest teacher union is backing Miami attorney Jason Pizzo over incumbent Sen. Daphne Campbell in the Democratic primary for Senate District 38.

“On behalf of the 140,000 members of the Florida Education Association, we applaud Jason Pizzo’s decision to seek public office. FEA chose to endorse his candidacy as a recognition of his advocacy for teachers and support professionals, as well as his support for neighborhood public schools in Florida,” said FEA President Joanne McCall.

“FEA’s biggest asset is our members and their dedication to electing pro-public education candidates. As such, we will be recommending his candidacy to members who live in District 38 and urging them to help achieve his victory this cycle.”

The FEA endorsement comes a few days after Pizzo landed the approval of the United Teachers of Dade. Other unions backing his campaign include AFSCME, which represents public employees, as well as the Florida AFL-CIO, which represents over 500 local labor unions, ten labor councils, and over 1 million union members, retirees, and their families in the Sunshine State.

“For the state of Florida to realize its greatest potential, we must support our educators and school staff so that they can deliver on the promise of a better future,” Pizzo said. “With FEA’s support, we add a trusted partner in the fight to raise teacher pay and provide them the tools and resources they need to shape the next generation of leaders. I’m proud to have them on this journey with us, and I thank them for stepping up to help elect a proud progressive champion to represent District 38.”

Campbell was elected to SD 38 in 2016. She received 31 percent of the vote in the six-way primary compared to 24 percent for Pizzo, a difference of 2,129 votes. She later won the general election in the Democratic stronghold after taking 75 percent of the vote against unaffiliated candidate Phillip Brutus.

Pizzo and Campbell are the only candidates to qualify for the ballot in SD 38, meaning all voters, regardless of party affiliation, will get to vote in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary.

As of June 22, Pizzo had raised more than $200,000 for his campaign, including $100,000 in loans. He had about $78,500 banked. Through the same date, Campbell had raised $105,000, none of them loans, and had $37,750 on hand.

Jason Pizzo

United Teachers of Dade endorses Jason Pizzo in SD 38 race

Jason Pizzo has grabbed the endorsement of the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) in his Democratic challenge to incumbent state Sen. Daphne Campbell.

Pizzo, a Miami attorney, is competing with Campbell in the Senate District 38 primary. No Republicans filed to run in the race.

The teachers’ union released a statement explaining why they’re supporting Pizzo.

“We believe that he will make a difference in Tallahassee by voting pro-public schools, working towards sound education policies, and looking to improve the lives of working people,” said UTD President Karla Hernandez-Mats.

“We know that by doing so, Jason will help us positively impact the 350,000-plus children that we educate every day.”

Pizzo thanked the group for their support in response to the news.

“Our teachers are directly responsible for our future success which is why we have a responsibility to support them with adequate pay and the right to collectively bargain,” said Pizzo.

“I’m honored to have the support of UTD, an organization who champions our teachers. As state senator, I will not quit until our educators and school staff are no longer under-appreciated and underpaid in Florida.”

Pizzo is gunning for the SD 38 seat after losing to Campbell in the 2016 primary. Voters will decide between the two on August 28.

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