Two Florida candidates have broken the rules before campaigning has begun in earnest. Though not sinister, the candidates’ actions raise questions on whether they should be running if they don’t know the rules.
The first is Lanell Williams-Yulee, who is running for a Hillsborough County judgeship. Candidates for the judicial position are not supposed to directly solicit campaign contributions. Instead, they must form committees to raise support on their behalf.
However, though Williams-Yulee’s committee drafted a letter sent out to supporters, it was written in first person and bore her signature.
“To succeed in this effort, I need to mount an aggressive campaign,” the letter said. “I ask for your support in meeting the primary election fundraiser goals.”
Williams-Yulee and her committee should have known the letter read like a personal appeal and that it could violate campaign rules, especially considering that she is a lawyer.
“This is her first time running as judge,” said her campaign manager, Rodney Burrell, to the St. Petersburg Times.
For someone who wants to be a judge, Williams-Yulee should know that ignorance of the law is no excuse.
A candidate for a congressional position, Maj. Randy Edwards, is also in trouble for making a personal campaign appeal. Edwards is running for District 12, which includes part of Hillsborough County.
He also is still active in the Marine Corps, and Department of Defense guidelines prevent active military from soliciting votes or speaking at partisan gatherings. He did both on more than one occasion, Democratic leaders said to the Times.
In October, Edwards spoke at the Florida Democratic Party’s annual conference in Orlando. “I’m asking for your help,” he said. “I’m asking for your vote.”
Edwards was also recorded on video soliciting support at the East Hillsborough County Democratic Club’s gathering on Oct. 13. He allegedly spoke at a Polk County Democratic Executive Committee meeting on Oct. 12 as well.
Few people seem to be upset over this apparent violation, though. “I think most of the people in the room were not aware of the rule,” said Tim Heberlein, vice president of Hillsborough’s Young Democrats club, to the Times.
However, that is precisely the problem. These campaign violations were probably not underhanded tricks. Both Williams-Yulee and Edwards likely had good intentions.
If someone wants to run for public office, they should know the rules that govern what they can and cannot do on the campaign trail, especially if they want to be a judge.