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Negative campaigning reaches fevered pitch in SD 30 Democratic primary

Secret underground chemicals. Bait and switch. Republican cronyism.

They’re all part of the crosscurrent of negative campaigning reaching a fevered pitch in the highly charged Democratic primary for Florida Senate District 30.

The Palm Beach Post is reporting on Michael Steinger, who is blasting his Democratic opponent, state Rep. Bobby Powell, with accusations he wants to store “secret” chemicals underground, favors a “bait and switch budget” and is close to Republican Rick Scott.

Powell fights back with charges that Steinger, an attorney, is a “rich guy trying to buy elections,” who drives a $121,000 vehicle and lives in a $10 million waterfront mansion.

Both sides have elevated the rhetoric in TV ads, mailers, billboards and speeches, earning the distinction as one of the nastiest races ever in Palm Beach County.

“(Steinger’s) allegations are all based on fallacies and exaggerations. His campaign is an act of desperation,” Powell told the Post.

A West Palm Beach resident, Powell serves as an urban planner with Urban Design Kilday Studios.

Steinger, from Palm Beach Gardens, is a personal injury attorney with Steinger, Iscoe & Greene. He does not deny having a nice home and car, but is not ashamed of his successes.

“Yes, I live in a $10 million waterfront home,” Steinger said in a recent interview. “I drive a $120,000 Mercedes-Benz. I have been successful. But I was brought up with a single mom, ate school lunches and went to a public school. I’m running to represent voters, not special interests.”

The most-recent exchange came this week when Powell accused Steinger of failing to report donations from a local special interest group — West Palm Beach Residents for Integrity and Government — in excess of state contribution limits. Steiner denies he ever received any money from the group, noting that about $500,000 of the $730,000 he has raised for his campaign came from his own pocket.

Another recent exchange involved both candidate’s fathers — each have been convicted of crimes — beginning with a TV ad from Steinger’s campaign featuring a mug shot of Powell’s father. Powell’s father was arrested on aggravated assault charges, and allegedly hit a woman in the head and fired a gun at the Riviera Beach home shared by the Powells.

Powell said his father’s situation had no bearing in his campaign. Steinger contends it is relevant, since Powell has called for stricter gun laws.

“(Powell’s father) illegally owned a firearm in the home he was sharing with (Powell),” Steinger told the Post. “My opponent touts himself as being in favor of stricter gun control. His father’s actions are a relevant campaign issue.”

A fundraising email from Powell’s campaign points out that Joel Steingel, Michael’s father, was serving a 20-year federal prison sentence since 2014 for operating a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Republican Ron Berman in November. SD 30 is a Democratic-leaning district covering northeast Palm Beach County. According to the Post, nearly 40 percent of the district’s voters are Democrats, 29 percent are Republican and about 27 percent either no party affiliated or registered as other.

Written By

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist, editor and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range included covering news, local government and entertainment reviews for Patch.com, technical articles, and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine as well as advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached at phil.ammann@gmail.com.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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