State Attorney’s Race Is a Slugfest

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By Toni Whitt, Sarasota Patch

August 10, 2012

Ed Brodsky, said he has been focused on getting back to the campaign. He recently attended a No Kill Manatee adoption event to tout his record on animal cruelty cases and talk about ways to strengthen laws to prevent animal abuse and neglect. context

Ed Brodsky predicted just last week that the campaign for state attorney's office — one of the nastiest local races in memory — was about to quiet down.

"We’re really on the last leg right now," Brodsky told Patch. "The tone is changing a little bit. We’re both now going to concentrate on individual campaigns and focusing on our own message."

Then came the latest spate of political ads urging voters to call Brodsky for picking on opponent Peter Lombardo and for not being a "real" Republican. The ad, which runs on Sarasota's ABC 7, features a witch and a rhino.

Brodsky says he simply wants to focus on his record and his plans for the office, which includes strenghtening laws against elder abuse.

He is also receiving support from Manatee County's No Kill Community for his work in prosecuting those who abuse animals and for his efforts to strenghten laws against animal abuse and neglect.

Lombardo did not return phone calls or email messages for this article.

And while Brodsky goes door-to-door talking about his campaign and traveling to events across the three-county region, Lombardo is sending his messages into homes across the region via television ads.

Lombardo's first ad was one of the nastiest of any local campaign and was described by some in the media as lethal.

But in the end the nastiness may have backfired on Lombardo. Not only has the negative ads turned off some voters, Brodsky has netted endorsements from law enforcement leaders across the region, as well as all of the area newspapers.

"I’ve been blessed because the promotions don’t play on my network," Brodsky said. "I don’t have to see them and my family doesn't have to see them. I just want to get my message out and get my supporters out to the polls to vote for me."

Brodsky said he won't resort to negative campaigning and has sent out only two campaign pieces, one "an introductory piece about myself, my qualifications and endorsements." The other is focused on his goals for office.

"I have tried to run a positive, upbeat campaign focused on background, qualifications, experience and law enforcement endorsements," Brodsky told Patch. "When you’re going to be elected state attorney, there's a certain role in being responsible and ethical. Attorneys at the state office are law enforcement partners.

"We’re deciding who gets charged and we have to act in a manner in accord with that position. You need a professional and dignified manner worthy to be state attorney."

The battle for the office began early in the campaign after Gary Kompothecras, a Siesta Key resident and founder of 1-800-Ask-Gary, switched allegiances and decided to back Lombardo.

My quoted sitting State Attorney Earl Moreland about the race:

"This is probably the most pressure that this office has been in in my 24 years as State Attorney," says Earl Moreland, State Attorney for the 12th Judicial Circuit, which includes Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto Counties.

Moreland says Gary Kompothecras wanted a former employee of his company, Physicians Group, LLC, to face charges of stealing trade secrets. Jeffrey Lauffer is now a star witness in civil suits against Physicians Group.

If not, Moreland says, it was made clear that Dr. Gary, as he's known, would throw his weight, and his multi-million dollar fortune, behind efforts to defeat Moreland's long-time chief assistant, Ed Brodsky. "There were going to be consequences if we didn't file criminal charges," Brodsky says, adding that early in the race, Kompothecras supported him, serving as an event host for a political fundraiser for Brodsky.

The state attorney's office for the 12th Judicial district employs 171 people, including 67 attorneys, and currently operates on a $9.5 million budget. Moreland, who was first elected in 1988, earns just over $150,000 annually. He is retiring this year.

But the acrimony between Lombardo and Brodsky began before the campaign started. Moreland's office leveled felony charges against the Lombardos about six months before the campaign started. The Lombardos were arrested on three felony counts of operating an assisted-living facility without a license.

The Herald-Tribune reported that Lombardo blamed Brodsky and said the arrest was purely motivated by politics:

"He was the only prosecutor in the 12th Judicial Circuit who was involved in this at all," Lombardo says. "Everybody in the criminal justice system knew I was giving consideration to running for state attorney."

Brodsky calls the accusation absurd.

The investigation of the Lombardos had been initiated by the Florida Attorney General's Office, and was ongoing for eight months before Brodsky got involved. It was the attorney general that ultimately issued the arrest warrants.

And Lombardo accuses the state attorney's office of trying to hide an email about campaign violations. Watchdogwire reported that Judge Janette Dunnigan sent an email to Brodsky designed to help with his campaign.

The online publication reported:

The email violates Canon 7 of the Judicial Code of Ethics and it is also a crime. Cannon 7 states all judges shall not "publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office."

The email sent to Walt Smith and then forwarded to Brodsky was quoted as saying:

You can tell Ed Brodsky that Ed Chiles will support him and do a fundraiser up here. I talked with him on Saturday. I got the impression that Ed had already met with him. If that is not the case, then he should arrange that soon. He said it was Earl’s man?? Tell Brodsky to mention my name when he calls. J

Lombardo has also come under fire for campaign violations. He has been accused of garnering an illegal loan from the assisted living facility he and his wife own. The $51,000 loan was well above the legal limit of what any company can give, even if the candidate owns the business.

Earlier this month, Lombardo issued a press release apologizing for the error and saying he has "taken steps to correct an accounting error in loaning his campaign money."

"I apologize for the error, it has been corrected and we will continue our campaign to bring conservative values to the State Attorney’s Office."

As for the issues, Lombardo who left the state attorney's office to go into private practice, promises to be tough on crime. According to his campaign materials, he wants to make it easier and faster for the state attorney's office to deport criminals who are in the country illegally. He also promised to be tough on child molestors, gang members and other criminals.

Brodskyhas said he wants to go after more white collar prosecutions and to work to end the prescription pill epidemic, by "going after the folks that are doctor shopping and pedaling the drugs … and targeting the physicians that are over-prescribing drugs."

He is also concerned about elderly residents who are isolated and vulnerable to being victimized.

800askgary, earl moreland, ed brodsky, gary kompothecras, lombardo, manatee state attorney race

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