TALLAHASSEE — House Democrats are ostracizing one of their own, Miami Rep. Daphne Campbell, after she backed a Republican abortion bill and quoted the Bible on the floor of the Florida House.
On Friday, Campbell was pressured to cancel a press conference where she wanted to demand public apologies from Democratic leader Ron Saunders and from Rep. Scott Randolph who clashed with her two days before over the abortion bill.
Another Democrat, Janet Cruz of Tampa, hissed when Campbell spoke on the floor during a debate about a bill limiting lawsuits, and was quieted by Republican House Speaker Dean Cannon. And then, during debate, Randolph began bringing up grisly cases that occurred in group homes Campbell ran years ago.
"If I come in with something like an obstructed bowel, in an emergency situation, and have to go into emergency surgery, coming then into the ER with an obstructed bowel, I would not get to choose which doctor may have liability insurance and which may not?" Randolph asked as Campbell — his back-bench mate — stood by.
Randolph's reference: reports of an August 2006 case in which a resident of one of Campbell's Miami group homes died of a suspected obstructed bowel after he was hospitalized. Campbell denies wrongdoing.
Randolph also asked about what could happen if someone choked to death on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In July 2006, a profoundly retarded resident of Campbell's group home died after choking on a PB&J sandwich, according to reports, which Campbell denies.
The Agency for Persons with Disabilities then canceled her contract.
Campbell, a registered nurse, eventually received new authority to bill under the state's Medicaid program for the needy and to operate group homes for people with disabilities.
"The bottom line with the whole thing: I didn't do anything wrong," Campbell said in August when asked about the issue during her legislative campaign. "I did not lose any license."
Deeply religious and opposed to abortion, Campbell clashed with her colleagues over the abortion bill. Randolph had had enough. And the two exchanged words — possibly more.
At that point, the stories diverge. And they're being revised.
Campbell said Randolph called her a "traitor," threatened to run an opponent against her and threw papers at her. Randolph denies it. He acknowledged he threw some of her papers and a pen in the trash.
Saunders, the Democratic leader, retrieved the pen. He also told a reporter that he saw the tussle and that there was enough juvenile blame to go around.
"They were flinging things back and forth," Saunders said Tuesday.
Campbell denied that happened and demanded Saunders issue a retraction. When he didn't, she said, she decided to hold a press conference asking for an apology.
Saunders then issued a letter through an aide saying he never said he witnessed the paper "flinging."
Campbell also changed her statements about the squabble, claiming in a press release that "the despicable 'F…' word was used against me several times."
Randolph denied that.
Campbell's aide issued the press release before a planned 3 p.m. news conference in the rotunda outside the House chambers. Campbell then unexpectedly canceled the press conference as some fellow Democrats urged her not to go against the party.
Before Campell's planned press conference, Randolph said he tried to make peace. But he had no regrets about what he told her Tuesday: "I hope you enjoy your two years in the Legislature."