Miami, FL – A round of political mailers and newspaper ads, targeting Jewish voters in South Florida, is attacking Democratic attorney general nominee Dan Gelber’s criticism of the state’s school voucher program.
The mailer labeled Gelber as “toxic to Jewish education” in Halloween horror-style lettering and was sent to homes in heavily Jewish neighborhoods in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.
Sent out by a group called the Committee for Florida’s Education Inc., the mailer accused Gelber of fighting “scholarships to help our needy children attend Jewish private schools.”
The Gelber campaign blasted the mailer as insulting, inaccurate and “in-the-gutter political hate mail.” Gelber is Jewish, and his three children attend public school as well as private religious education programs.
Gelber’s campaign manager, Christian Ulvert, said the mailer portrays Gelber as opposing vouchers for Jewish education when in fact he opposes all school voucher programs. “Programs that rob our public education system, which is already severely underfunded, will not meet with Dan’s approval,” Ulvert said.
State records show the Committee for Florida’s Education was founded as an “electioneering communications organization,” or ECO, this month and is funded solely by $255,000 from the American Federation for Children, a Washington, D.C.-based group that lobbies for school vouchers. The committee has spent $114,000 on printing and mailing so far.
Elnatan Rudolph, chairman of the committee, said the group is getting its message out in direct mailings and running ads in Jewish newspapers in several races, including the attorney general and gubernatorial campaigns.
“Gelber has made repeated statements against school choice and vouchers,” said Rudolph. His group supports the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program that he said gives $3,500 per year to low-income families who want to send their children to private school.
Among the Gelber quotes on the mailing is one from 2003 when Gelber said: “This program needs major reformation. It’s an embarrassment.”
The attack mailer misrepresents Gelber’s position and quotes out of context statements that he made about tightening accountability for various state voucher programs, said Ulvert.
The most inflammatory statements quoted in the mailing dealt with Gelber’s call to investigate how taxpayers’ voucher money was being spent, Ulvert said, including concerns that one school, the Islamic Academy of Florida, sent $350,000 overseas to fund terrorist activity. The Tampa school was linked to Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to aid Palestinian terrorists.
A spokeswoman for Gelber’s opponent, Republican Pam Bondi, said she “had absolutely no knowledge of this flyer.”
Added Sandi Copes, “Pam made a promise to campaign positively.”
Rudolph rejected the Gelber campaign’s charge that the committee is acting on behalf of Bondi’s “special interest allies.”
“This is more against people who do not support school choice,” said Rudolph.