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Flier in Miami commission race highlights dispute over gay-rights group's endorsement

A new attack flier in the down-and-dirty race for Miami Commission District 2 goes after candidate Kate Callahan, saying a gay-rights group linked to one of her campaign consultants improperly endorsed Callahan.

Flier front

Except the group, Unity Coalition, says it has not backed anyone in the race.

"We never, ever issued an endorsement in District 2 at all," said Herb Sosa, president of Unity Coalition's board of directors. He called the flier "completely fabricated."

The group did send out an email to candidates Donna Milo and Michelle Niemeyer -- first reported by the Political Cortadito blog -- informing them of the board's decision to back Callahan, Sosa acknowledged. But the group later told the candidates it was not going to formally and publicly back anyone in the race.

"We had a board meeting. We did decide to endorse Kate," Sosa said. "What occurs at a board meeting doesn't have anything to do with a public endorsement."

Callahan's campaign consultant, Vanessa Brito, sits on Unity Coalition's board. Sosa and Brito said Brito recused herself from meeting with the Miami commission candidates and reviewing their questionnaires. The group did not meet with candidates Williams Armbrister and incumbent Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.

Despite Brito's recusal, Sosa said the board ultimately decided it did not want to appear like the group had any conflicts with backing Callahan. "We felt that regardless of whoever we endorsed or whoever we chose there was always going to be this question," he said.

"They did endorse Kate," countered Emiliano Antunez, Milo's campaign consultant. "After all hell broke was rescinded." Sosa says that since the endorsement was never publicly announced, there was never anything to rescind.

The flier says it was paid for Miamians for Honest and Responsible Government, an electioneering group run by a friend of Milo's. Milo has acknowledged that the group created anti-Sarnoff ads.

Unity Coalition asks candidates questions about issues important to Hispanics and members of the LGBT community, including gay marriage, gay adoption and immigration.