Democrat Tracey Kagan is touting the endorsement of the brother of her opponent, Republican Rep. Scott Plakon, who made claims that could exacerbate a long-running family feud.
“Please read these courageous words from my opponent’s brother, Bob Plakon,” Kagan tweeted on Saturday as she retweeted a long statement that both endorsed Kagan and made strong and dubious criticisms of Scott Plakon.
Kagan and Plakon are in a rematch battle for House District 29 in western Seminole County.
From the beginning, the contest has featured harsh rhetoric and stark advertising. Kagan has accused Plakon of anti-Semitism. Plakon has accused Kagan of being anti-police and a radical. Kagan has accused Plakon of denying health care coverage during a pandemic.
Bob Plakon’s endorsement message has either the aura of inside-family revelations about the five-term House member or a lashing out from a family member who could be estranged.
Kagan, a criminal defense lawyer from Longwood, said Sunday that she did not solicit the statement in any way. It showed up as an unsolicited comment on her Facebook page, following a post she had published on her endorsement from the Orlando Sentinel.
It has gone from there to Twitter. Bob Plakon declares that he “firmly believes” that his brother is homophobic, and charges that his lavish spending has forced their parents to bail him out financially.
Scott Plakon, of Lake Mary, is one of the highest-profile Christian conservatives in the Florida Legislature, and he wears his strong religious faith on his sleeve. Yet he also has been known for his friendships with various leaders of the Central Florida LGBTQ community. He also was one of few House Republicans who voted yes on funding for the Pulse Memorial and Museum.
Scott Plakon, who founded and until recently owned and ran Nationwide Publishing Co., has filed financial disclosure reports with the Florida Commission on Ethics over the past six years that have never shown a net worth of less than $2 million. That has shown loans from his father, of up to $270,000, yet they have only lasted a year as liabilities.
Bob Plakon also accused his brother of changing in recent years, from someone who spoke of wanting to help other people into “just another politician.”
“If I had not moved from Heathrow, Florida, to Tennessee about five years ago, I would vote for Tracy [sic] Kagan,” he wrote in the Facebook comments. “This endorsement may come as a shock to some family and friends in the area. To those people, I would say it is not my intention to hurt anyone. It is my intention to do what I feel is right in my heart. I believe that light is the best disinfectant. My thought is that the public should have this information and vote accordingly.”
Bob Plakon’s post was confirmed Sunday by a lawyer representing him, Vicki Levy Eskin of Longwood. She wrote, “I am very, very confident that Bob did not act with malice.”
Scott Plakon responded by accusing Kagan of exploiting a painful family situation.
“I love my brother. Bob has had significant personal struggles for the last decade. The allegations in his statement are false. I wish him nothing but the best,” Scott Plakon said in a written statement.
“For Tracey Kagan to promote division and pain within a family for her perceived political gain is nothing short of despicable. By the way she has run her campaign, I’m not surprised, but this is a new low in political attacks,” Plakon added.
Ron Plakon, Scott and Bob’s father, also sent a statement, which read in part:
“Five years ago, as Bob was having personal struggles and because of some actions he took, we became estranged and have been so since. I am very close to my son Scott, and I can tell you for a fact that he is not homophobic. I suspect that the financial matters related to a loan I made to Scott in 2017 as his late wife Susie‘s Alzheimer’s was advancing. He had just stepped down as CEO of his own company to care for Susie. They had a large house with multiple balconies and a pool and he was concerned for her safety. We had some investments that paid almost no interest so we provided a first mortgage on their new house so that he could seamlessly move Susie into a smaller and safer house he bought with a caregiver apartment, and then sell the first house without the agitation it was causing Susie when potential buyers came through the house. Scott paid us back every penny plus about 5 times the interest we could have earned at the bank.”
Kagan charged that it is Scott Plakon that has sunk to lows in campaigning, or at least his supporters have filled social media with hateful things about her.
She said she has no intention of using Bob Plakon’s endorsement or statements in any of her campaign advertising.
“Everything I’ve focused on with Scott Plakon has been facts-based; all my mailers, everything is only attacking his issues, his platform, not his person,” she said. “So I don’t see the need to do any kind of mailer and go that route. He’s gone that route with me. He’s attacked my career, my personality. But I’m not going to go that route.”