Just days ahead of the August 18 primary, a robocall has emerged falsely claiming former President Barack Obama is endorsing Senate District 35 candidate Daphne Campbell.
Campbell, a former Senator who was ousted in 2018 from her District 38 seat, is one of six Democrats competing in the contest.
Obama has not endorsed anyone in that field.
“The robocall is a fake. President Obama hasn’t issued any endorsements in Florida yet, including in this race.” said Katie Hill, a spokesperson for President Obama. “We strongly condemn any candidate who resorts to distortion to falsely suggest President Obama’s support.”
For her part, Campbell says she doesn’t know anything about the robocall.
“I don’t know anything about that. I am not aware of a phone call,” Campbell told the Miami Herald. “I don’t do those things at all.”
The robocall stitches together a pre-recorded script from Obama and splices in Campbell’s name where appropriate.
In the script, Campbell’s name is read by a female voice clearly distinct from Obama’s. We’ve inserted her name in brackets where it appears in the script to make clear Obama does not actually speak her name.
“Hi, this is Barack Obama calling on behalf of my friend, [Sen. Daphne Campbell],” the audio recording begins, according to a copy obtained by Florida Politics.
“Today is Election Day and it’s critically important that you get to the polls, cast your ballot and make your voice heard. I’m supporting [Sen. Daphne Campbell] because they’re the only candidate running to represent you and who will be a champion for middle-class families, and I know [Sen. Daphne Campbell] will fight to defend the progress we’ve made over the last eight years.”
Obama’s reference to “progress we’ve made over the last eight years” appears to imply this recording was made in 2016 as he was set to exit office. That could lead some to believe a group supporting Campbell is simply reusing a 2016 endorsement from Obama, back when she was running for the SD 38 seat.
That’s not the case either, however. While Obama backed several Democratic candidates in competitive Senate races that cycle, Campbell was notably absent from his endorsement list.
That snub was highlighted by Campbell’s opponent in the General Election, non-party affiliated candidates Phillip Brutus.
The robocall continues on. “I trust [Sen. Daphne Campbell] to keep fighting for all the things we believe in: a woman’s right to choose, protecting Medicare and Social Security, making college more affordable and protecting our environment,” Obama says in the recording.
“Our children need us to keep working to make this country stronger, fairer, safer and cleaner, and [Sen. Daphne Campbell] will do just that. Again, this is Barack Obama urging you to get to the polls to vote for the candidate who has my back and yours: [Sen. Daphne Campbell]. Thanks, and go vote.”
The ad closes with the disclaimer, “This has been a paid political advertisement not paid for or approved by any campaign committee or Daphne Campbell.”
The ad does disclaim being paid for by her campaign, however. That leaves an open question as to who’s behind the fake endorsement.
Campbell has been caught falsely claiming endorsements before, however. In 2018, she repeatedly released campaign materials showing Aventura Commissioner Robert Shelley was endorsing her bid. Shelley, in fact, endorsed her opponent, Jason Pizzo. Pizzo would go on to oust Campbell and win the SD 38 seat.
Falsely claiming an endorsement violates Florida law. Florida Statute 106.143 reads: “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.” Violations can result in civil penalties.
In 2019, the non-profit organization Farm Share was forced to cancel a food distribution event after Campbell improperly linked the event to her campaign. Farm Share is a 501(c)(3) organization and is barred from participating in campaign events.
Campbell is competing in the Democratic primary against former firefighter Wilbur Harbin, Miami Gardens City Councilman Erhabor Ighodaro, outgoing Reps. Shevrin Jones and Barbara Watson, and former Rep. Cynthia Stafford.
The winner will be heavily favored for the seat in the General Election match-up against write-in candidate Darien Hill.