I had absolutely no intention of going after District 107 State Representative Barbara Watson. I even made it a point to stay out of this race entirely. This was despite the fact that I actually had many reasons to support anyone who decided to run against Watson in her upcoming bid for re-election.
But, here’s the thing. I happen to be a registered Republican living in a heavily Democrat district, where no Republican dares to run. In a partisan race between Democrats, unless there is a compelling enough reason for me to choose one over the other, it usually doesn’t matter to me who wins. I’d much rather focus on non-partisan local elections, the outcomes of which have a much greater influence on our day to day lives.
When Barbara Watson ran against the late John Patrick Julien in 2012, however, there were plenty of compelling enough reasons to grab my attention.
First of all, as I’ve made perfectly clear on numerous occasions, I consider absentee ballot fraud to be one of the most egregious crimes against the voting public. I still firmly believe that the only reason Watson won that election was through the fraudulent use of absentee ballots. According to her campaign records, Watson paid self-titled “Queen of Absentee Ballots” Noucelie Josna the sum of $4,770.00 to “work” on absentee ballots. That alone made me suspicious.
Then, when Julien “lost” by a mere 13 votes, despite “several thousand” others that were questionable at best, I was convinced there was foul play.
Julien contested the election in a Tallahassee court before a judge who, as I reported in Voter fraud gets a green light, refused to allow the video testimony of witnesses who claimed “they neither requested nor mailed in absentee ballots. These people wanted to testify but they were not allowed to travel to Tallahassee because of nursing home insurance laws.” I also added, “Interesting that he allowed a scofflaw, such as Noucelie Josna, to appear via internet, but refused to hear testimony from sixteen people whose votes were clearly stolen.”
Clearly the Tallahassee judge either couldn’t be bothered by voter fraud, or simply didn’t care what goes on down here in South Florida. Maybe voter fraud isn’t as big a problem in the panhandle as it is down here, where it appears South Florida is the voter fraud capital of the state.
I also supported John Patrick Julien because during his first election he campaigned on the promise to ensure that the residents of North Miami Beach would be well represented in Tallahassee. He did not disappoint in his first term in office, and I believed he deserved a second.
On the other hand, during Barbara Watson’s previous term in office, she seemed to resent North Miami Beach. Before the districts were redrawn, she mainly represented residents in her hometown of Miami Gardens. Once her district was merged with part of ours, she and Mr. Julien were forced vie for the same seat in the House.
As I stated in a column I wrote on June 30, 2013, Speaking of “NO!”, in her previous term she had introduced “legislation amending Florida Statute 180.191 regarding public utilities to do away with our ability to impose a 25 percent surcharge on customers outside our city limits. It’s quite obvious that Watson’s primary concern is to protect our water department’s customers in her home city of Miami Gardens at the expense of NMB residents, who stand to lose revenue should such legislation pass. Our own water bills would necessarily increase as a result, yet her loyalties are apparently with residents outside North Miami Beach.”
I am told now, though, that Barbara Watson has since reconsidered her position on this issue because she also now represents a large portion of North Miami Beach. During her current term in office she has not introduced any legislation that would work against us. Whether she will continue on this course should she win again remains to be seen.
Furthermore, in 2012 Barbara Watson had received a failing grade from the Foundation for Florida’s Future, an organization for education reform. In Making the Grade. Or Not., I wrote, “A possible reason for Barbara Watson’s Failing grade could be her inability to vote for anything. Or, it might be for her inconsistency. It’s anyone’s guess. But, consider this: She was on the Appropriations Committee for Bill 1331 regarding School Choice for Pre K-12, for which she voted “Yes.” When this bill got to committee two weeks later, she voted “No.””
You can read more about Watson’s Legislative voting history at Project Vote Smart.
As much as I didn’t want to get involved in this particular race, I felt compelled to for several reasons.
An issue for which I already filed an ethics complaint with the Florida House of Representatives is that it appears she violated Rule 15.3 which reads:
“(b) A member may neither solicit nor accept any campaign contribution during the 60-day regular legislative session or any extended or special session on the member’s own behalf, on behalf of a political party, on behalf of any organization with respect to which the member’s solicitation is regulated under s. 106.0701, Florida Statutes, or on behalf of a candidate for the House of Representatives; however, a member may contribute to the member’s own campaign.”
According to my research, Barbara Watson did “solicit” and “accept” eleven checks representing Campaign Contributions during the period of March 4, 2014 through May 2, 2014, when the 2014 Florida Legislature was in session.
In my complaint to the House of Representatives, I wrote, “House Rule 15.3 was created by the Florida House of Representatives to provide Floridians with the assurance that there will be no undue influence exerted upon the members of the Legislature, while they are in Tallahassee making decisions that affect the lives of those they were entrusted to represent. By accepting donations (See Exhibit “A”) from the special interest groups for her own re-election campaign account controlled by her, during the legislative session, Representative Watson erodes the confidence placed on the House by those who elected its members. This violation cannot stand if Florida is to prove to its citizens that their government is free of any improper and undue influence.”
But, wait! There’s more!
Yet another incident occurred that made me feel obligated to get involved in this race. The other day I happened to run into Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman. She told me that one of Barbara Watson’s opponents, Michael Joseph, was running on a campaign promoting school vouchers, yet she heard that when he was interviewed by the Miami Herald, he claimed to be against them. Her comment, of course, intrigued me and I just had to check it out.
Today I was forwarded a copy of a recent email exchange between Alan Sakowitz (the man who brought down Scott Rothstein) and a woman concerned about the school voucher issue. She wrote to Mr. Sakowitz:
Alan, I just got a personal phone call from Rep. Barbara Watson whom I’ve been in touch with on a personal matter … She stated that today at a meeting with the Miami Herald TODAY assemblyman candidate hopeful Mr. Joseph stated that he does not support vouchers. She would also be in touch with you personally to share that with you.
Mr. Sakowitz, who gave me permission to publish this, wrote back to her:
Thank you very much for providing this information to me. Accuracy is everything and therefore I spent considerable time trying to verify the statement. Rep. Watson called me as well. Representative Watson said each candidate was asked yesterday if they support any of the voucher programs and each responded that they do not support any of them. Michael Joseph told me he was not asked that question at all. In fact, he said that in the questionnaire the Miami Herald requested he fill out before the meeting, on the question asking about whether the school voucher program is a drain on funds or helps enhance public education, he answered “I think it depends on the type of choice program. However, I support any initiative that puts more money in the classrooms and not in the administration of public educational programs.”
Rep Watson gave me Dora Bain’s phone number to verify what was said. This morning I received a call back from Dora Bain at the Miami Herald. Ms. Bain indicated that she spoke with some of the individuals that did the interviewing yesterday and none remember even asking a question about the voucher program. She then called me back and noted the questionnaire. That matched exactly what Michael Joseph said and the comment was the same so I know that what he gave me was an exact copy of questionnaire that he gave the Miami Herald.
Regardless of whichever side of the debate you are on regarding school vouchers, the bigger issue here is whether or not Barbara Watson is being completely honest to potential voters.
It’s quite obvious that she is not.
There are residents I’ve spoken with recently who claim that Barbara Watson is doing a fine job representing them at the state level. There are others, of course, who don’t feel the same.
In all honesty, I have no idea as I have not had time to pay attention. In case you haven’t noticed, North Miami and North Miami Beach have been keeping me pretty busy!
At the request of a friend, I did meet with Mr. Michael Joseph several months ago. I’m pretty sure my friend hoped that I would endorse Mr. Joseph, or at least volunteer for his campaign. I have done neither. I have also not met either of the other two candidates in this race. Frankly, I don’t even know their names, so this is not about my endorsement or support.
I have not written anything at all about this race until now, so it should be quite obvious that I have not publicly supported or endorsed any candidate for District 107. I do not intend to do so in the future.
But, whether or not I approve of any particular candidate is not the issue.
What does matter is that the voting public should expect and demand that every candidate in every election run a clean and ethical race.
I do intend to continue keeping a watchful eye on all of the races in our local elections in an effort to ensure that candidates do exactly that.
After the election, the winners must be held accountable to the people who put them in their seats.
Honestly, I wish I didn’t care. My life would be a lot easier if I minded my own business and just let politicians do what apparently comes naturally to them – make empty promises and lie through their teeth.
But, for some inexplicable reason, I do give a damn.
More importantly, so should YOU!
“Spreading the Wealth”