Over the past few months, former President Barack Obama has endorsed hundreds of Democratic candidates in the November midterm elections. None were running for municipal positions in Florida. Yet a flyer circulating in North Miami Beach claims Obama has endorsed five candidates vying for mayor and the city commission.
The handbill purports to come from a group called Concerned Citizens of N.M.B., an electioneering committee that, according to the Florida Division of Elections, does not exist. Local blogger Stephanie Kienzle filed a complaint about the flyer with the Florida Elections Commission this past October 12.
“That’s not a real committee,” she says. “To my understanding, Obama hasn’t endorsed anybody locally.”
photo via Florida Elections Commission
The leaflet, which has been spread around North Miami Beach ahead of the November 6 voting, includes two candidates who have actually earned the support of Obama: gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and Sen. Bill Nelson. But the flyer also lists a slate of North Miami Beach candidates, none of whom seem to have a connection to, or endorsement from, Obama. They include mayoral candidate Robert Dempster and commission hopefuls Paule Villard, Fortuna Smukler, McKenzie Fleurimond, and Michael Joseph.
Kienzle’s complaint accuses Villard, a former Miami Police sergeant, of creating and distributing the flyer. But Villard tells New Times she did neither. “I don’t really know who did it,” she said Wednesday. “I’m not behind it. I don’t even use it.”
The mysterious handbill is notable even in one of Miami-Dade’s most corrupt cities. In October 2017, former Mayor Myron Rosner was arrested for securities fraud and grand theft. A few months later, then-current Mayor George Vallejo pleaded guilty to using campaign funds for personal expenses. Then in July, City Commissioner Frantz Pierre was hit with charges of bribery and money laundering.
Next week’s election has major potential to shake up city politics, for better or worse. Five of the six North Miami Beach Commission seats are up for grabs, and three candidates are gunning to become mayor.
The heated election has produced at least one other improper flyer, which targeted sitting commissioner and mayoral candidate Anthony DeFillipo. The leaflets referred to him as “Tony ‘Soprano’ DeFillipo” and other candidates as his “crime family.” DeFillipohas since filed a $2 million libel lawsuit against the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union, whose name was printed on the mailers. The union has denied any involvement and now says its name was illegally used.