House District 81 candidate Michael Weinstein began this election cycle as an unknown — a political novice from a politically pedigreed family with every chance to create a persona afresh.
But instead of using this blank slate to define himself as Palm Beach’s champion against a Republican Party increasingly at odds with facts, he has emulated the precise tactics President Donald Trump uses — justifying, gaslighting and admitting no wrong, even when repentance is due.
We’ve already highlighted a number of examples of Weinstein’s willingness to say anything to win votes: lying about his opponent’s legislative record; misrepresenting his fundraising; pandering to both the police union and anti-police voters alike.
Perhaps one could write these off as politics as usual; campaign tactics that may not translate into how a person behaves once elected.
But to do so could result in the same mistake millions of voters made in 2016 — believing that Trump’s campaign persona would transition into something more presidential if elected.
The area where voters should feel the greatest concern is Weinstein’s depiction of his professional career, and the role this background could play on prospective bills he votes on.
Weinstein, a criminal defense lawyer, uses his experience as a former prosecutor to promise clients their best chance at beating charges of domestic violence, narcotics trafficking and more.
The Palm Beach Post asked Weinstein about this. His response: “Currently, as a lawyer, I represent victims of domestic violence in restraining order cases.”
This assertion is, at best, half true.
We looked a bit deeper into cases Weinstein has handled — a caseload defined by domestic abusers, scam artists, child predators, child porn peddlers and pill mill operators.
Looking more deeply at Weinstein’s many dozen domestic violence cases in the Broward Court system alone, it is true that he has represented a handful people who have accused others of domestic violence, but these cases make up a small percentage of his overall caseload.
Here’s one example: John Wurms was a client of Weinstein’s at least three times. Wurms was charged with violating an injunction of domestic violence and battery and had a history of domestic violence including “relentless” and threatening stalking. Weinstein then represented Wurms when he sought to get a protective order from domestic violence against a female — not quite the image Weinstein wants to comes to mind when saying he represents individuals seeking restraining orders.
In at least one case, a former client of Weinstein’s has become a donor to his campaign: Nick Bhasin is the doctor who was arrested in a sweep of statewide pill mills by the Florida Attorney General’s Office and charged with six counts of culpable manslaughter and conspiracy.
One would be justified in wanting a person with Weinstein’s background to represent them if charged with a crime — and certainly justified in lauding the immense blessing of living in a country where people are presumed innocent and legal representation is guaranteed.
But is this the person voters should want representing them when voting on laws, more broadly?
A candidate’s profession is regularly and justifiably, questioned by voters and opponents. What a person does for a living is fair game for scrutiny, whether that candidate is a lobbyist, a trial lawyer, criminal defense lawyer or investment banker.
Would it be fair for a candidate to be attacked for representing tobacco companies or Big Pharma? Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have made careers of doing just that. It happens all the time.
Here’s how it could matter in this case: If presented with a bill on domestic violence, would Weinstein vote in favor of stronger penalties for offenders (thus compromising his reputation in the eyes of prospective clients) or in favor of weaker penalties (thus compromising the ability for victims to protect themselves)?
Voters are right to know how a candidate earns his or her living and to make an informed decision from there. Weinstein gets no special privilege of immunity when running for office, despite the impression that he believes he’s privileged — or entitled — to this seat by virtue of superior intellect or family history.
He wants the police union to endorse him while wanting anti-police advocates to vote for him. He wants women to believe he’s defending them when, in reality, the bulk of his expertise lies in getting men accused of domestic violence out of trouble.
He wants people to think his opponent is taking a page out of “Trump’s playbook” — while even saying that is perhaps the most Trumpian tactic of all.
He wants to be seen as credible — but cannot admit a mistake, and worse, attempts to justify his bad decisions by playing the hero.
For instance, when attempting to justify why he helped his best friend Charlie Adelson avoid arrest after the FBI and prosecutors made it clear he was involved in the murder-for-hire of Dan Markel, Weinstein made this analogy: him helping Adelson was like being a doctor who helps a friend beat cancer.
This offensive rationalization should tell voters everything they need to know: Weinstein will justify his defense of domestic abusers while telling women he’s their best friend.
Whether you call it mansplaining, gaslighting, or just plain arrogance — these traits may be great in a courtroom, but not so much in chambers of the Florida House.