In a hotly contested Senate campaign, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights organization is backing Miami Beach attorney Michael Gongora.
“We value actual experience in our community over promises,” said Stratton Pollitzer, Equality Florida Deputy Director, in a telephone interview with SFGN Thursday afternoon.
Pollitzer, who lives in Florida Senate district 38, said he has received mailers from a shadow organization calling itself “A Stronger Florida” that he called “ugly and sleazy.”
The mailers attack Gongora on ethics, noting his fine by the elections commission and accusing him of skirting laws and “shaking down” a strip club owner.
“It’s just reprehensible,” Pollitzer said of the mailers.
Pollitzer points the finger to a political action committee organized by Kenneth Pizzo, father of Jason Pizzo, one of seven candidates contending for the open seat.
“Shame on Jason Pizzo for using his family’s wealth to falsely attack gay candidates,” Pollitzer posted on Facebook.
Pizzo, 40, is a former prosecutor in the state attorney’s office who, ironically enough, has been endorsed by SAVE, a South Florida organization dedicated to protecting people who are LGBT against discrimination.
“Jason Pizzo is the strongest candidate,” SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima told SFGN. “He came in with the most comprehensive plan needed to appeal to all the ethnicities in this district. He’s done very well fundraising and he’s committed and proud to serve.”
Six Democrats are vying for the party’s nomination. The primary election concludes Aug. 30 and while Equality Florida and SAVE disagree on candidates, there is agreement on a common enemy.
Even though the two organizations disagree on who should win the primary, they do agree one thing.
“We have to beat Daphne Campbell,” Pollitzer said. “She is terrible on LGBT issues.”
Campbell currently represents district 108 in the Florida House of Representatives. She has a track record of opposing progressive policy issues and questionable business practices. A chain of nursing homes, owned by Campbell and her husband, were investigated for Medicaid fraud and unsanitary living conditions.
As of Aug. 5, Gongora had reported $153,152 in campaign contributions compared to $61,391 for Campbell. Pizzo reported raising $597,350, which includes $550,000 in personal loans.
In analyzing the race, Pollitzer said Gongora, a former Miami Beach Commissioner, has what it takes to win.
“Equality Florida’s Action Pac believes Michael Gongora has the best chance to beat Daphne Campbell in a very short campaign,” Pollitzer said. “He (Gongora) has name recognition and an established block of voters. He doesn’t just say something, he actually gets the job done and has a proven track record of passing cutting edge model policies.”
Florida Senate district 38 became a free-for-all following the retirement of Gwen Margolis, the state’s longest serving legislator. Former North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns, a gay man, is also campaigning for the Democratic nomination and has also been the target of negative mailers from Pizzo’s pac.
“Bad With His Money. Bad For Our Money,” reads the anti-Burns mailer which also claims Burns has filed for bankruptcy.
“It’s a sad attempt to bolster himself while tearing down other candidates,” Burns said. “Why would he hide behind his daddy’s money and not put his own name on the mailers? Why would he miss 17 elections?”
Early voting is underway in the district, which stretches south from the MacArthur Causeway north to the Broward County line.