News Section: Local Government
Race Analysis: State Attorney for 12th Circuit
The race for the Republican candidacy of State Attorney for the 12th circuit, or ManDeSota area, has gone from mild and downright predictable to contentious and bomb-ridden, with Chief Assistant State Attorney Ed Brodsky fighting to hold his lead over recently invigorated contender, private attorney Peter Lombardo, both of whom are veterans of retiring incumbent Earl Moreland's office.
With Brodsky having acquired a number of high-profile endorsements and a large war chest, his victory looked to be in the bag. However, the pace and potential outcome of the race has shifted recently. This change happened when the race crossed over into bizarre tabloid territory, with allegedly illegal campaign loans, and even finger-pointing over the death of a Bradenton man.
The most sensational allegation unleashed so far comes in the form of a high-powered attack ad on Brodsky that has been funded by a political action committee. The commercial, which began airing on television in July, involves the 2007 death of Bradenton man Daniel Ramsey. The ad begins with a trail of oil and the strike of a match, featuring Ramsey's widow, Roberta, stating that Brodsky is responsible for inmate Michael Walker's murder of her husband in 2007. Lombardo – who denied involvement with the ad at a recent debate at the Sarasota Bay Tiger Club, only to have Brodsky point out that he's acting in it – has defended the allegation, citing the fact that Brodsky signed off on the 2006 decision to not charge Walker with robbery of a pizza deliveryman after the victim could not be found by the police department. The murder of Ramsey occured when the couple arrived in their driveway to find Michael Walker outside the house. Ramsey was shot dead by Walker's accomplice, Anthony Lewis. Walker was convicted of second degree-murder and armed robbery, and Lewis was convicted of first-degree murder. After Ramsey's murder, it took Manatee County deputies 10 minutes to find the deliveryman.
Lombardo said the ad is "100 percent accurate...it shows Brodsky's failed record." Brodsky retorted that the pizza robbery case was worked on by another attorney, and that the attorney, as well as law enforcement, made repeated efforts to reach the original robbery victim to no avail. He did acknowledge that he signed off on the memo that released Walker. (The memo containing the state's explanation of the decision can be viewed here.)
Up until the time of the attack ad, the odds of Lombardo winning the race were not looking good. Recently, Lombardo has gotten flush with large donations, at least one of which is alleged to be illegal, as well as one that Brodsky says comes from a mega-rich donor with a personal vendetta against him. The $51,000 donation to the Lombardi campaign comes from the assisted living center owned by his wife, and is more than 100 times the maxmum amount allowed by state law. In a press release regarding the incident, Lombardo's campaign chalked up the donation to an "accounting error:" “...In loaning money to the campaign, the Lombardo family drew a check from their joint business and when they learned of this error, they took steps to correct the issue that will show on the next campaign finance report,” the press release stated. If Lombardo's claimed error is found to be in violation of state campaign finance law, civil fines will likely follow.
Another money source the Lombardo campaign has benefitted from extensively is a local PAC, largely funded by Sarasota magnate Gary Kompothecras, founder of doctor-lawyer search assistant and radio ad blitzkrieg machine 1-800-Ask-Gary. Brodsky has been trying to keep Kompthecras' connection to the financial resources of the Lombardo campaign in the spotlight, claiming that the businessman is out to make Brodsky an election loser due to a personal grudge.
Lombardo had earlier charged Brodsky of favoritism, claiming that he aided a felony defendant because she was the daughter of a politically-connected attorney, who is also a campaign supporter and donor of Brodsky's.
According to reports, Megan Boone was an English teacher at Venice High when police arrested her for the sale of two prescription Adderall pills to an undercover officer. Boone was approved for Drug Court and pretrial intervention, which meant no criminal conviction on her record.
However, the criteria for the program includes "must not have been arrested for the sale of drugs." Lombardo, who has years of experience as a prosecutor dealing with candidates for such programs, says he's never seen another instance when someone who'd been arrested for dealing any amount of drugs was given an exception.
At the time Lombardo raised the issue, Brodsky told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that exceptions were quite common, though he was only able to cite one example and when it was examined, it turned out to be a very different scenario in which a person arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana, with what was described as a "very weak" intent to sell charge attached, which their attorney was able to get dropped. The defense attorney said that the program was still "firmly refused as impossible" until it was presented just before a trial after they refused a plea deal.
As far as political issues go, Lombardo has made the main issues of his campaign prosecution of the runners of so-called "pill mills", an increased crackdown on gangs using Rico statutes, and "protection of the elderly." He also says that he wants to go after white collar criminals, claiming that they are currently not being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Brodsky says he also want to do more to combat white-collar crime and to help war veterans that have run into trouble with the law, saying, "If elected, I will do everything I can to get those cases identified and do everything I can to get them back on their feet and not in a cycle of crime." Both have also expressed interest in putting more focus on non-jail oriented policies for non-violent offenders.
The vote for district attorney for the 12th judicial circuit takes place on August 14, with early voting available until August 11.
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