State Sen. Daphne Campbell wants it known she's a local champion and a victim in a controversy that has swirled around her after Hurricane Irma.
The often-unconventional Miami Democrat went on Facebook late Sunday to defend texts showing she tried to use political connections with Florida Power & Light to get electricity restored to her district --- as well as to several family members --- and to allege that those texts were acquired by a local reporter through less than noble means.
“I did not expect that anyone would come to a `feed the community' event, in order to sneak away my phone to steal information from the text messages that I use to help my people,” Campbell posted. “Unfortunately, one of the text messages taken from my phone was the one concerning my two children and sick mother.”
Campbell also wrote that she didn't know the person who sat next to her and her unattended phone at an event she organized --- a post-storm “massage and pizza party” hosted by the District 38 Church of Scientology Youth Task Force --- turned out to be a local reporter.
“I have apparently found out that this media is located within my very district. It would be an understatement just to say how disappointed I am in this despicable, atrocious, and malicious behavior,” Campbell wrote. “I am aware that there are hundreds or thousands of competing news media out there, and I know that it is rough for them. For many, if they do not have false news, they won't make it. But, why choose NOW? My constituents have been suffering, still suffering and a few will continue to suffer without electricity for a short period of time; but by the grace of God with my due diligence, the suffering will end soon.”
Online website Rise News of Miami offered a much different take, along with a rebuttal that noted the reporter wore a press badge around his neck and that a hand seen cradling Campbell's phone while shots were taken of different texts is the senator's.
“Obviously Campbell did not like the facts that were reported in our article,” Rise News posted. “That's too bad for her.”
Rise News reported that Campbell was boasting about her contact with an FPL lobbyist and made her cellphone and texts readily available for publication.
“While most politicians usually downplay their relationships to lobbyists, Campbell is proud of her connection to FPL, especially at a time when millions of Floridians have had to rely on the utility to turn their power back on,” Rise News reported. “Campbell is so proud of this connection that she let Rise News take pictures of text messages between herself and FPL lobbyist John Holley.”
The texts show Holly responding, but FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski disagreed that Campbell's efforts altered any restoration efforts, saying she is “mistaken” to believe that the lights coming on at her mother's home was the result of texting for help.
According to FPL, crews were already in the area as part the massive storm-recovery effort before Holley submitted a request to the company's customer advocacy group regarding Campbell's mother being added to a “medically essential program” for power restoration. The power came back on for Campbell's mother before Holley could submit the request, FPL said.
RYAN TOUTS FLORIDA TIES IN POST-IRMA TOUR
After touring the wreckage caused by Hurricane Irma in Jacksonville and the Keys, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan assured Floridians that he's got their backs.
“America loves Florida. I gotta just tell ya,” Ryan, flanked by members of Florida's congressional delegation, told a gaggle of reporters at the U.S. Coast Guard air station at Opa-locka Executive Airport.
The group's tour took place as Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, leaving 100 percent of the island --- still reeling from Irma --- without power.
“I've been coming here since I was a young guy,” Ryan said. “I've been fishing in the back bay, in Florida Bay behind Islamorada since my early 20s. My mom is a resident of Broward County. And so we want Floridians to know that they, too are in the front of our thoughts and our prayers, that the federal response will be there. That's why we are here.”
The Florida lawmakers brought the House speaker (and other congressional budget leaders) down to witness first-hand Irma's widespread impact, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said.
“We know there's going to be money needed to help the state of Florida recover,” Rubio said. “We wanted him to see it.”
The assessment apparently worked, with Ryan pledging bipartisan support for rebuilding Florida, “whether it's structures or businesses or agriculture or everything in between.”
“More is going to occur. More is coming,” he said. “We want the people of Florida to know that we are in it with you, that the federal response will be complete and that we have more work to do and that's why we're here, to assess this.”
Ryan called the damage to Florida “really astounding” after flying over Miami and the Keys, where Irma initially made landfall Sunday before coming ashore again in the Southwest region of the state.
Ryan marveled that the massive storm affected nearly every part of Florida.
“What's impressive is the response, and what is needed is more aid and more help,” he said. “We know the federal government has a very important role to play here.”
IRMA SCRUBS SARASOTA CHENEY LOVEFEST
Sarasota's Cheney-fete is another casualty, for now, of Hurricane Irma.
Due to the “suffering of so many in our region,” the Sarasota County Republican Party has postponed its annual “Statesman of the Year” dinner --- honoring former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney --- from Oct. 7 to “later.”
"Hurricane Irma has been a difficult event for our region for residents and businesses, and devastating for our friends to the south" said state Rep. Joe Gruters, who is also chairman of the county party. "We want everyone to be able to focus on recovery efforts for themselves and others.”
Tickets for the $175-a-plate --- $275 for couples --- event at the downtown Westin will be honored on the TBA rain date, the party noted.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Golly, it looks like @ritchworkman has left Twitter. I can't imagine why.” --- Sun Sentinel reporter Dan Sweeney (@Daniel_Sweeney), referring to former state Rep. Ritch Workman, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the state Public Service Commission.