On Thursday, Republican voter William Stuttgen found something unusual in his mailbox. It was a mailer from "Republican Neighbor Choice" listing Republican candidates for the Florida primary August 28: Rick Scott, Adam Putnam, Daphne Campbell — wait, what?
Democratic state Sen. Daphne Campbell's name was listed along with Republicans on a mailer "paid for by your Republican Neighbor."
"I was shocked," said Stuttgen. "What, Daphne Campbell? On a Republican ballot?"
There are no Republicans running for election in District 38, where Stuttgen lives. Campbell is facing a Democratic primary challenger in former prosecutor Jason Pizzo.
Stuttgen has a Pizzo sign on his front lawn and was suspicious of the mailer, which came in a letter that had his name and
So who sent the odd mailer? Neither Republican Neighbor Choice nor Your Republican Neighbor is a registered political committee with the Florida Department of State. They have no website, no social media presence, and no affiliation as an actual group.
"All political committees registered with the Division of Elections are searchable online," said Department of State spokesperson Sarah Revell. "Section 106.03 Florida Statute states that political committees that receive contributions or makes expenditures during a calendar year that exceed $500 must file a statement of organization with the Division of Elections."
Florida state law requires any political advertisements circulated prior to an election to prominently state the name of the candidate who paid for and approved the advertisement, their party affiliation, and the office they seek.
On Friday, dark-money group Florida Strong also shared a picture of the ballot questioning Campbell's inclusion.
The whole situation is weird enough that the Miami-Dade Democratic Party says it's launching an inquiry to determine whether Campbell's campaign is involved somehow, according to local party chair Juan Cuba:
The @MiamiDadeDems steering committee will be investigating/ sending @SenCampbellD38 a letter inquiring whether her campaign is involved with this mailer, & asking her to renounce this illegal tactic.— Juan Cuba (@juancuba) August 7, 2018
It wouldn't be the first time Campbell has faced scrutiny. In May, New Times reported that she had used her position as a politician to persuade a Florida Power & Light lobbyist to get her power back on after Hurricane Irma. While tens of thousands of Miamians were still in the dark, Campbell told the FPL lobbyist she urgently needed the power back on because her sick mother was on oxygen — but as New Times later revealed, her mom had been dead for two years before the storm. This only came to light after Campbell bragged about her actions on camera to a reporter during a Scientologist-filled massage and pizza post-Irma party.
Last year, Campbell was caught on video accepting a designer handbag from a healthcare lobbyist who shoved a wad of cash inside during her birthday party and reelection fundraiser. More recently, Campbell has faced questions about whether she even lives in the district she represents.
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In 2016, when New Times called the phone number listed for Campbell on her official candidate filing forms to ask about the ten foreclosure proceedings filed against her properties, Campbell initially answered and confirmed it was she. When New Times asked about the foreclosures, she said the reporter had the wrong number and hung up.
New Times didn't have any more luck getting answers from Campbell or her campaign this time around. At first, a woman answered, then passed the phone to someone else.
"Hello? Who is this?" said a man's voice. After hearing it was New Times, the man said, "New Times. Oh. She's not here right now. You have to call back later. You called at a bad time. She's in a meeting." The man hung up after refusing to give his name.
Correction: Due to an editing error, this story originally misreported whether registered Republicans will be able to vote in Campbell's primary; they will be able to vote in that election.