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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Daphne Campbell holds press conference, other Dems go to the video tape over floor saga

The Daphne Campbell-Scott Randolph saga continued Wednesday, with Campbell holding a press conference demanding that Minority Leader Ron Saunders and Randolph publicly apologize for what she called bullying and sexist attacks, and a group of Democrats responding with video and eyewitness evidence that they say proves that Campbell is blowing everything out of proportion.

You know, just typical 58th day of the legislative session stuff.

buzz_4.jpgCampbell upset many Democrats last week for speaking out and supporting legislation that would put further restrictions on abortion, which prompted fellow Democrat Randolph to promise to find someone to unseat her in 2012. After a vote, Campbell and Randolph exchanged words.

And perhaps more. She says he flung papers at her. He denies it. Others say they both threw papers. She denies it. Randolph acknowledges that he threw some of her papers and commemorative House pen in the trash because they were on his desk. Later, during debate on limiting lawsuits, Randolph subtly brought up reports of deaths connected to Miami-area group homes that Campbell ran.

Campbell stepped out from the House floor on Wednesday to address the controversy, surrounded by the wives of two Republican legislators and pro-life activists. Lobbyists and Democratic legislators curiously watched the press conference.

With a booming voice and a strong Haitian accent, Campbell called Randolph's actions -- and Saunders refusal to publicly apologize and admonish Randolph -- sexist and bullying. Dispelling some rumors, she said she would not switch parties and become a Republican, but vowed to keep pressing the issue until both issue public mea culpas.

Both already have privately apologized, said Campbell, who has presented a request to House Republican leaders for protection while in the chamber.

"I need it public," she said, with Democratic Reps. Evan Jenne, Darryl Rouson, Jeff Clemens and others looking on. "We're grown up people. We are adults. They are getting worse than kindergarten children."

Someone taped the entire press conference, then handed the video camera to Randolph's aide.

About 15 minutes later, after the House broke for a brief recess, about a dozen House Democrats stood alongside Randolph and said the entire issue had been exaggerated. "The apologies were made," said Rep. Joe Gibbons. "As far as we are concerned this is a dead issue."

They then played Florida Channel video showing the incident in question -- the Democrats' own Zepruder film.

The video showed Campbell finishing her floor speech as Randolph sat in a room at the back of the House where members can make phone calls. As Campbell finishes, Randolph swings open the door and walks toward his seat next to Campbell. He sits down and appears to start talking to Campbell.

The camera cuts away from the two for about five seconds. Then, the camera returns and sees Randolph walking away from the desk drinking a bottle of water.

"If there would have been very loud and aggressive behavior, I would have heard it," said Rep. Geraldine Thompson. "I did not."

Saunders said he believes Campbell getting involved with groups that are using this for political purposes. "A number of members have reached out to her," said Rep. Mia Jones. "We can see that is not working."

UPDATE: We received an "incident report" from Campbell that apparently has been provided to Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera's office. Campbell says Randolph "marched towards me in a menacing and angry manner. Rep. Randolph's hate-filled contorted facial expressions, menacing bodily gestures and loud threats placed me in fear of bodily harm, great anxiety and a strong emotional shock. I had never been accosted in such an aggressive, violent and hate-filled manner.

"Rep. Randolph proceeded to violenty throw papers at my face as well as pick up my pencil and angrily throw it in a nearby trashcan.

"As a direct result of Rep. Randolph's attacks against me, that evening I suffered from an anxiety attack, strong migraine-like headaches, back and muscle aches, insomnia as well as stomach pains."

Campbell ends the incident report by requesting public protection for my safety while attending sessions of the Florida House of Representatives.

-- Aaron Sharockman and Patricia Mazzei

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 5:28pm]


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