Former Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief is suing state Sen. Lauren Book, accusing her of defamation amid a heated campaign for Florida’s District 35 seat.
In litigation filed July 29, Sharief claimed Book and political action committee Winning Florida “shamelessly and relentlessly disseminated lies to people” that Sharief took funds from medical and social programs designed to help those in need.
“I could not allow my children to see that and to know that I am not doing anything to fight back,” Sharief said.
“No prosecutorial agency has ever accused me of taking taxpayers’ money, defrauding the government or defrauding the Medicaid system,” she said.
Sharief said that mailers claiming she supported gun manufacturers and their selling of assault rifles was highly offensive since her father was killed in gun violence. Additionally, a photo of her at a gun buyback program that was used in the ads was taken out of context, she claimed.
“They cropped the picture to make it look like I was in a mask holding an AR-47 was just disgusting,” she said. “I would never support putting an AR-47 or an AR-15 on the streets.”
On Monday, Book denied the allegations, saying she had nothing to do with the political action committee that made some of the claims, and that the ads she’s responsible for were vetted.
“I’ve wanted to run a positive campaign really focusing on my own track record and where we want to go from here,” Book said. “Unfortunately, right out the gate, my opponent wanted to start attacking my record.”
Book said those mailers never came from her or her campaign.
“They came from a PAC separate and apart from which I understand is outlined in the lawsuit. Any of the TV we have done were all ripped from the headlines,” Book said. “This is a frivolous — at this point — lawsuit … Anything that we have put out on TV have been substantiated by headlines, whether they be the Sun Sentinel or the Miami Herald.”
Sharief’s lawyer Michael Pizzi, who filed the litigation, is seeking $1 million in damages. He said what’s needed now is a court injunction to stop the ads and mailers from reaching voters.
“I think that we are going to have to be moving for injunctive relief, because the problem is, when you are this close to a campaign, we have an obligation to protect the taxpayers, the people from getting false information,” Pizzi said.
Early voting in the primaries begins Aug. 13.