In a 2016 clip uploaded to YouTube, North Miami's Democratic state Senator, Daphne Campbell, told an interviewer that her mother and father were dead. She added that her husband's parents were also dead. In fact, she said basically everyone close to her either was deceased or lived far away.
"His father and his mother died," she says just after 2:15 in the clip above. "My father and my mother died. I don't even have one family [member] in Miami here."
One year later, Campbell sent a text message that became infamous. Soon after Hurricane Irma ripped through Miami-Dade, cutting off electricity to tens of thousands, she typed a note to a Florida Power & Light lobbyist begging him to help turn the power back on at her house.
The reason: Her "sick mother" needed care.
"Our district was not hit by a Category 5 but its effect has caused my constituents enough pain and suffering," she wrote in a statement after getting caught texting the FPL rep. (More about that in a second.) "My constituents include 15 cities with a population of approximately 500,000 individuals. This includes two of my younger children and medically compromised mother who lives on oxygen."
So is Campbell's mother dead or alive? Through a staffer named William Whitmire, Campbell confirmed her biological mother is, indeed, dead. But Whitmire said his boss wasn't referring to her deceased mom in that statement. Instead, Campbell was referring to a long-standing family friend whom she allegedly refers to as "mom." Whitmire claimed it's common in "Caribbean culture" to refer to elders as "mother" and "father."
"This lady was someone she met when she first moved down to Florida," Whitmire said without providing a name. (Update: Campbell's office has since named the alleged woman. See below.) "In her Caribbean culture, they refer to elders as 'mother' and 'father,' 'aunts,' 'uncles,' 'brothers,' and sisters.' That's where the confusion came from."
Campbell also repeated the claim about her "mother" to WPLG reporter Glenna Milberg and referred to the woman in question as a "family member."
"My mother is on oxygen," Campbell told Milberg. "She was on oxygen! This was a priority. There is nothing wrong with that. It doesn't have anything to do with a family member. She is a constituent."
This is also Daphne Campbell we're talking about — a woman who has been caught in more hilarious lies than just about anyone in Florida politics. Just last month, Campbell was caught on video passing around a bag where people were seen dumping (unreported) campaign cash directly into her coffers to celebrate her 60th birthday. In 2012, when the Miami Herald asked her why the IRS had filed $145,000 in tax liens against her, she responded by succinctly saying, "I don't have no tax liens."
New Times has also called her out for bald-faced lies. In 2016, a reporter phoned her to ask why a large number of previously unreported foreclosures had been filed against her properties. Campbell initially answered the phone and confirmed her identity, but when asked about the financial troubles, she suddenly claimed the reporter had the wrong number and the wrong person.
"My name is Rose," she said. "You cannot have my last name. I don’t have anything to do with you. Who is Daphne Campbell? I do not know who that is."
(New Times reached Campbell today by calling that same phone number, which is listed on her campaign documents.)
Before entering politics, the Haiti-born Campbell operated a chain of nursing homes. Those homes have been repeatedly accused of mismanagement. Campbell's son Gregory was convicted of Medicaid fraud in 2013. He
The FPL controversy last year was also an affair that could have occurred only in Daphne-land. Rich Robinson, a former New Times intern who founded the Miami-based journalism startup Rise News, spoke to Campbell at a combination Hurricane Irma relief drive and Scientology event last year. He filmed her bragging about using her FPL connections to get her power restored. Robinson took a photograph of Campbell's phone screen, which showed her texting FPL lobbyist John H. Holley.
Campbell later claimed Robinson had "stolen her phone" at the event, but the photo clearly shows Campbell's hand holding the device:
Campbell then issued a
"Today I felt numbed and my heart pained after discovering that the person who had taken my phone along with text messages is the owner of a news media publication," she said.
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Campbell is now running for reelection in Florida Senate District 38. She won a squeaker of an election in 2016 but faces a tougher primary challenge this year from former prosecutor Jason Pizzo. He is, perhaps most important, not Daphne Campbell.
Update: After this story was published, Campbell's campaign said the woman staying with Campbell during the storm was Linette V. Barrett, a 77-year-old woman whom the state senator met at church more than 30 years ago.
When New Times called her listed phone number, a woman named Carol claiming to be Barrett's daughter answered the phone but declined to give her last name. Carol said that, indeed, Barrett was not Campbell's biological mother, but asked repeatedly why that mattered.
"She has been calling my mom, 'mom' for years!" Carol said. "My mom is a sick woman. She is a sickly, sickly woman. The house in the summertime is very hot. So she [Campbell] called. I didn’t see the big deal about that? This lady is doing so much good for people."