Facing criticism from her own party over her conservative positions on mainstream Democratic issues, Miami state Senator Daphne Campbell explained her views on gay rights during an appearance Sunday on CBS Miami’s Facing South Florida.
“They have their rights. I have my rights,” she said.
Appearing on the program to debate her primary opponent, Jason Pizzo, Campbell defended her vote in 2015 against gay adoption and her decision to co-sponsor a so-called “bathroom bill” widely interpreted as an attack on Florida’s transgender community. Campbell, a former state Rep. who was first elected to the Senate in 2016, represents a district that includes Miami Beach, which hosts a substantial and vocal gay community.
“The gay people have their rights. I have my rights,” Campbell said when host Jim DeFede mentioned her votes on LGBTQ issues. “Of course, I took an oath to serve everyone. I don’t discriminate. I have gay people who work in my office. I have gay friends. But they have their rights. I have my rights.”
On the bathroom bill she co-sponsored, Campbell explained: “Everywhere you go it says women’s bathroom, men’s bathroom. If you’re a woman in the bathroom do you want somebody else in the bathroom?”
“Is this a problem that needed to be legislated?” DeFede asked.
“This is still, again, that’s their rights,” Campbell answered.
Campbell, who is deeply religious, explained her positions as she and Pizzo, a former prosecutor who lost to Campbell in 2016, argued over who is the better Democrat. Campbell took a shot at Pizzo’s sparse voting record during the decade that he's lived in Miami-Dade County and pointed out that he wasn’t registered to vote as a Democrat until he decided to run against her two years ago.
Pizzo said he was registered without party affiliation until after he left he Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict. Records show he voted twice in 2016.
“I am a Democrat. There is a stark division and contrast in our policy ideas, in our ideologies as it relates to a woman’s right to choose, gay adoption, same-sex marriage,” Pizzo said, adding that Campbell’s repeated assertions that he hasn’t voted in eight years are inaccurate. “We are diametrically opposed.”
Any voter in the 38th Senate district can vote in the race regardless of party affiliation, since the election is the one and only vote that will be needed to decide who represents the district. But the vote is a Democratic primary, and when they weren’t slamming each other over their ethics, the two candidates argued over who is the better Democrat.
On charter schools, Campbell said she has been inaccurately cast as an ardently pro-charter-schools lawmaker. She said she has previously supported efforts to boost Florida’s expanding charter school network, but voted against the budget this year over her objection to the state’s handling of the education budget.
“When I found out how public schools are being treated” Campbell changed positions, she said. “As you can see, on my agenda for next year, it’s to make sure we have adequate funding for public schools.”
On abortion, DeFede pointed out that Campbell has voted repeatedly for legislation that would create roadblocks to abortion, and at one point supported a bill that would restrict Planned Parenthood’s access to funds. DeFede asked her if her opposition to abortion was “absolute.”
“Let me make clear. Yes. Women have the choice. They have the right to choose. That’s their body,” said Campbell. ‘I’ve stated over and over why. I have a child who is 25 years old. When I was pregnant with the child, when she was three months [gestation] I went blind and I spent six months at Bascolm Palmer. When they asked me to have an abortion I said ‘No way.’ That was 1992.”
Campbell added: “I would never prevent women from doing whatever they want to do to their own bodies.”
Pizzo, however, said Campbell’s statements about respecting the rights of women who choose to have an abortion ring hollow when placed next to her voting record.
“The irony is that Senator Campbell’s very personal experience speaks to the idea that it’s very personal. But her legislative, her votes on abortion legislation would seem to abridge and curtail the ability of a woman to do that, to have that choice,” he said.
Campbell fired back. “I don’t understand why my opponent is talking about votes. He hasn’t voted in eight years.”
The two face each other in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for Campbell’s district.