Florida Representative Daryl Campbell denied allegations that he took part in a homophobic whisper campaign that propelled him to victory during a special election earlier this year.

Campbell, elected in January to fill the open house seat in District 94, said the charges made against him by queer activist Elijah Manley are simply untrue. Manley has suggested Campbell was involved in a calculated effort to use sexual orientation as a wedge issue in parts of the district where Black and Caribbean voters are susceptible to such messaging.

“I am not homophobic nor have I ever been,” Campbell told SFGN in a Zoom interview from Tallahassee last Thursday. “My voting records have shown from day one, since stepping into office, that I have been helping and been an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Even when I was campaigning I was in the community, showing my face, talking with individuals in the community. I don’t know where this is stemming from, it’s just an unfortunate effect.”

Campbell, who served as a top aide to former Representative Bobby DuBose, won the election with 40% of the vote, while Manley finished third with 26%. All four candidates were Democrats. Shortly after the results were certified, Manley penned an op-ed to SFGN accusing Campbell, among other things, of saying Manley’s focus on LGBTQ+ issues was “a slap in the face to Black issues and race relations.”

“These allegations, at first they did bother me,” Campbell said. “Being called something that you are not and really trying to defame your character is something that I expected Republicans to do, not my own Democratic party member. It’s just unfortunate.”

Redistricting has changed the map slightly and Campbell said he will seek re-election in the newly drawn District 99. Manley too has announced plans to run for office again as the district has expanded to take in all of Wilton Manors, home to precincts where Manley performed well.

“Mr. Manley, I wish him the best,” Campbell said. “I know he’s probably working to run against me again and he has another shot at it and so I welcome the challenge. But right now I am not focused on him, I am focused on ensuring that my district, members in my community and the state of Florida is being spoken for and I’m representing well.”

Campbell voted against HB 1557, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which passed the lower chamber by a 69 to 47 vote. It wasn’t enough to appease Manley, who in a press release announcing his decision to run again, said, “we need a new type of representative who is not afraid to take on the well connected and powerful.”

“I can’t get caught up in his smear campaign,” Campbell said. “He’s run four times and he’s said the same thing about every single body tarnishing him in some kind of way if you look at his receipts. So there’s history of him gaslighting previous representatives and he’s just continuing to try to make a name for himself. I’m not concerned about it. I wish him well, I am upset he would try to defame my character because all I did was nothing but nice to him.”