CANDIDATE ACCUSES HER OPPONENT’S CAMPAIGN MANAGERS OF HARASSMENT AND VERBAL ABUSE AT THE POLLS.
Campaigning can be a nasty ordeal as this cycle in Miami Beach has proven. So too can be sign holding.
As residents head back to the polls this weekend and on Tuesday to decide the winners of the runoff, one candidate spoke with the SunPost on how ugly it can get outside of a voting precinct.
Elsa Urquiza says she was verbally abused multiple times by Micky Steinberg’s campaign managers while they all stumped for votes in the first election. Urquiza and Steinberg are now locked in a head to head runoff.
“There were actually many incidents,” Urquiza said. “The people involved were the Micky Steinberg people, and the two of them claim to be their campaign managers.”
Urquiza identified Jeremy Kozyak and David Carcache Guzman as the central actors.
In one instance Urquiza says Guzman came up really close to denounce her integrity.
“He came up to me, touched me with his shoulder to my shoulder, and called me a ‘corrupt old woman’, and called me trash in Spanish,” she said.
“He said it was about time the residents got rid of corruption in Miami Beach, and that I was a corrupt old woman,” said the candidate. “Very very close, to an inch of my face.”
Urquiza says the incident stemmed from when she helped a handful of elderly voters fill out their ballots.
The SunPost received reports that she was doing this at the polls, and questioned whether this was ethical.
According to Miami-Dade Elections, a friend or family member can accompany a voter to the booths if assistance is needed. The county requires the voter to fill out a Declaration of Secure Assistance form, and the helper to fill out a Declaration to Provide Assistance form.
In all cases Urquiza says the forms were filled out. And as to her being a candidate, the poll workers asked for a ruling from their supervisor who did allow it, says Urquiza.
“They had asked me if I could help them,” says Urquiza. “These people were here to vote for me one way or the other.”
She says after the other campaign made a scene, she stopped helping them to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Urquiza says she was surprised by this reaction because she had known Guzman for some time while he was involved with the campaign of State Representative David Richardson.
“We have always had a very courteous relationship, very civil,” Urquiza said of Guzman. When she tried to remind the young man of this, he did not want any part of it she says.
Kozyak also changed after her helping with the ballots.
“That’s when it changed,” says Urquiza.“ He began to video tape me, and record me and say that this was unfair, and that what I was doing was illegal. “
According to Urquiza, Kozyak acted similarly towards the people that were helping her.
“The obscenities that this young man said, I am 67 years old, never in my life been called such obscenities. It was really bad, “ says Urquiza.
Kozyak allegedly called Urquiza a “Big Ass Vagina” among other things.
The SunPost received several reports confirming the ugly confrontation that became so aggressive, Commissioner Ed Tobin intervened and the police were called.
The SunPost reached out to Kozyak for comment. He declined to speak on the record stating that he was not the official mouth piece of the campaign. Kozyak suggested the SunPost speak with Micky Steinberg for comment, and that he would pass along the message and phone number.
He did confirm that he was the campaign manager on the Steinberg campaign.
Half an hour later Kozyak called the SunPost back saying he could only speak for himself, and nothing more.
As for the allegations brought on by the opposing candidate, he completely refutes them.
“I can only speak for myself, it is inaccurate,” said a guarded Kozyak.
He explained that he believes that in the heart of a runoff election, Urquiza is using this as a way to “distract from the issues.”
Kozyak would not answer what role Guzman held in the campaign, again citing that the answer was outside of the scope of speaking on his own behalf.
Guzman himself could not be reached for comment on this post. Guzman has a reputation for being involved in politics. He is seen as an activist in Sweetwater, active in various boards, and had a noteworthy stint working with State Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla. According to 2007 write-up in the New Times by Calvin Godfrey, Guzman was arrested by state law enforcement in 2006 for forging his employer’s signature on checks made out to himself.
“I wonder about the message this sends, that you hire someone or have someone there that represents you that is a corrupt person,” said Urquiza while she recounted that 2006 charge. Urquiza also points to an incident between Guzman and an aid to Commissioner Jorge Exposito who is also in Tuesday’s run-off.
Urquiza says she had asked her son not to campaign for her, in order not to run into Guzman again after a near brawl. Her son had known Guzman and tried to introduce him to her. She had not told her family of the previous encounters.
When her son introduced them, Urquiza says Guzman said “they almost took her away in handcuffs,” hinting at the ballot incident. Her son then asked Guzman to show respect, and according to Urquiza, the men came to near blows.
Meanwhile Kozyak continued to video tape his opponents according to Urquiza.
“I think they were trying to get us to react to this bad behavior,” she said.
Steinberg received 37.56% of the vote on November 5, Urquiza 32.16%. Their closest opponent, Sherry Kaplan Roberts, received 26.27% and has endorsed Urquiza.
“Elsa is known for her own contributions to civic and community projects, she will govern with dignity and civility, and she did not need to destroy the good name of her opponent to make the run off,” said Roberts in her endorsement statement.
Urquiza told the Sunpost that she could not believe the paper endorsed Steinberg.
“I am very surprised that your newspaper endorsed Micky Stienberg, She has not done anything in the community. She has absolutely zero experience. We have very important issues that we have tackle here in the city of Miami Beach, and she is completely ignorant to those issues,” said Urquiza.
The SunPost’s Editorial Board endorsed Stienberg in the October 31st issue stating: “Wife of former State Senator Richard Steinberg, Micky clearly is familiar with the trappings of power and the way the Miami Beach Commission works. With the support of her husband and family- a family whose commitment to the city cannot be questioned – Micky Steinberg’s fairness is above reproach.”
Urquiza concluded that the Steinberg name must still carry weight. As for the campaign workers:
“I would not have tolerated that kind of behavior from any of my workers,” she said.