Democratic Rep. Al Jacquet has faced multiple controversies this campaign cycle and is facing a serious primary challenge from Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Omari Hardy.
In response to those challenges, Jacquet spent a total of $0 on his reelection campaign.
That’s according to the final financial reports submitted Friday and despite the fact Jacquet had close to $40,000 in his campaign account.
The report perplexingly does not include Jacquet’s filing fee, which he claims to have paid from his campaign account. Hardy filed a complaint alleging that payment came from Jacquet’s personal funds, which violates Florida election law.
Still, no other expenditures are listed for Jacquet. The odd strategy comes after Jacquet faced numerous questions surrounding the location of his district office and after he faced fines over campaign violations. The incumbent also lost his status as the ranking member of the Rules Committee after he directed a homophobic slur at Hardy during the campaign.
Yet Jacquet seems to be simply banking on name recognition and his ties to the House District 88 Haitian community to hold onto his seat.
Radio host Philippe “Bob” Louis Jeune, lawyer Sienna Osta and former Riviera Beach Councilman Cedrick Thomas are also vying for the Democratic nomination.
Hardy has mounted the most serious challenge. He gained some national attention after erupting at a Lake Worth Beach Commission meeting in late March over the handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. Though it was early on in the pandemic, Hardy warned the panel it needed to take more serious action to protect the public.
“We could’ve banned large gatherings. We could’ve closed the beach. We could’ve put a moratorium on utility shutoffs,” Hardy said.
Hardy’s criticism prompted pushback from the Mayor and other officials who attempted to halt the meeting.
“This is a banana republic is what you’re turning this place into with your so-called leadership,” Hardy retorted in a shouting match with Mayor Pam Triolo.
In February, Hardy and Jacquet went back and forth after Jacquet labeled Hardy a “batty boy.” The derogatory term is used as a slur in the Caribbean to describe a gay person.
Jacquet made the comments as part of his radio show on Sak Pase FM, which was also broadcast on his personal Facebook page.
After facing rebukes from several of his House Democratic colleagues, Jacquet stepped down from his spot on the Rules Committee.
“In the heat of the moment, I said something I should not have said,” Jacquet added. “I apologize for my words that have offended some of my colleagues.”
Months later, Hardy accused Jacquet of lobbing another anti-gay slur his way while Jacquet called into Sak Pase FM, prompting a wave of Democrats to endorse Hardy. Jacquet denied using the term and the station, which hosts Jacquet’s show, disputed the accusation.
“This account is 100% false,” read a letter from the station. “It did not happen. It would not happen. It could not happen. Our station airs paid ads for small businesses throughout this region as well as political ads. We would not jeopardize the integrity of this station to allow someone to disparage one of our paid customers in such a negative way. The ethics of our radio station would not tolerate that.”
Jacquet’s previous slur, which was caught on a recording, did air on that same station, however.
Rather than ramp up his fundraising operation to hold his seat amid the multiple controversies, Jacquet sat idle, spending nothing in his reelection bid.
Hardy, meanwhile, raised nearly $79,000. The challenger burned through only about $22,000 of that total, however, leaving a lot of cash on the sidelines as well.
Neither of the other three Democratic challengers mounted much of a fundraising operation.
It’s unclear how Tuesday’s election will shape up. While Jacquet has seemingly worn out his welcome with many of his Democratic colleagues, the same may not be true for voters, who tend to favor incumbents.
The winner of the primary will face Republican Danielle Madsen and non-party affiliated candidate Rubin Anderson in the general election.