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Second Democrat faults his party over 'brothel' mailers

A second Democrat in the Florida House faults the Florida Democratic Party's decision to send mailers highlighting Republican Rep. Mike Horner's links to a brothel in Orlando after Horner announced his resignation from the Legislature.

"I don't like it. It's not the right thing to do," said Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek. "I respect Mike's privacy at this point. Unfortunately, we can't control what they do at the party. I wish we could."

The party's decision to produce two anti-Horner mailers has heightened tensions between incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and the new House Democratic leader, Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. Weatherford said the mailers were "intellectually dishonest" because Horner announced his resignation shortly after his name surfaced on a list of brothel clients.

Thurston said he had no advance knowledge of the mailers and had told fellow House Democrats not to discuss Horner's case with reporters but to refer questions to him instead. Embarrassed by the mailers, he said he called Horner to tell him he had nothing to do with them.

Republicans in the Legislature changed the law last year so that candidates do not have to approve so-called "three-pack" party-building ads, the kind used to attack Horner. Thurston was one of several House Democrats mentioned in the mailers' fine print.

"I either would not have approved it or I would not have approved my name being associated with it," Thurston said.   

Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux defended the party's actions. "Mike Horner was involved in a prostitution scandal that disgraced himself, his family and his party. Republicans have yet to come clean about what they knew and when they knew it. Voters are understandably outraged and we share their sentiment."

However, Horner's name remains on the ballot because his resignation on Sept. 24 came after ballots had already been printed in Osceola and Polk counties, where the House District 42 race will play out. Republicans chose Michael LaRosa as Horner's GOP replacement, and the Democratic candidate is Eileen Game of Frostproof. 

Waldman expressed optimism that the incident will blow over by the time the Legislature holds a one-day organizational session on Nov. 20.  "I'm very optimistic that we're all going to be able to work together," Waldman said. "I don't think this is going to have a long-term negative impact."

-- Steve Bousquet