Sharief attacks Book on TV ad after PAC’s mailer slams her ‘shameful record on guns’

Former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief said in a TV ad aired Sunday that Florida state Sen. Lauren Book is “desperate to win” state Senate District 35’s Democratic primary after a PAC sent a mailer criticizing her record on guns and safety.

The name of the Fort Lauderdale-based political action committee Winning Florida appeared on the mailer as the one taking aim at Sharief’s “shameful record on guns and public safety,” including a photo of her holding a rifle. It references news headlines reporting that Broward commissioners, Sharief included, approved in 2015 a resolution offering county incentives in support of a deal seeking to attract the authorized U.S. manufacturer of the Russian-style AK-47 assault rifle.

The unanimous vote happened nearly three years before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, where a gunman shot and killed 17 students and teachers, the Florida Bulldog noted in a story that ran in the Miami Herald in 2018.

Sharief said in the TV ad, which aired on WPLG Local 10, that the mailer is from “Lauren Book’s campaign team” and that the photo that was used is from a gun buyback program. Sharief added that the murder of her dad when she was 14 years old shaped her commitment to “get guns off the street.” 

“I was shocked to see that the Democrat leader Lauren Book’s team twisted the facts into suggesting that I don’t support common-sense gun control,” she said. “This is everything that’s wrong with politics in our country and Lauren Book should be ashamed of herself to twist the facts [and] be so desperate to win an election.”

Book’s campaign told the Herald in a text message that they denied any knowledge or connection to the mailer. Campaign spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren added that Broward voters already rejected Sharief’s campaign tactics in November when she and nine other Democratic candidates lost their bid to represent Florida’s 20th District in the U.S. Congress. That special election in that district to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings was ultimately won by U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.

“Broward voters already rejected our opponent’s tactics last November and we know they will do so again in August,” said VanSusteren. “Which is why our campaign isn’t engaged in the tactics deployed by our opponent and have nothing to do with the mailer.”

Winning Florida, the political action committee responsible for the mailer, has received over $300,000 in campaign contributions since mid-March of last year, including three separate contributions totaling nearly $100,000 from the Miami Beach-based Mango’s Tropical Cafe LLC, Florida Department of State election records show. The committee’s chairman is Jason B. Blank, Fort Lauderdale attorney, whose name is listed as treasurer or chairman in dozens of Florida political committees.

Blank did not return a request for comment on Sunday afternoon.

The mailer and TV ad are the latest sparring between Sharief and Book in the race for state Senate District 35, a primary that has been riddled with personal attacks. When Sharief launched her campaign in May, she slammed Book over her decision not to force a roll call vote while the state Senate debated including exemptions for rape, incest and human-trafficking victims in the 15-week abortion ban bill.

The new Senate district, which was redrawn by the Florida Legislature as part of the once-in-a-decade redistricting process, now includes a highly diverse part of Broward County, including Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Southwest Ranches, Cooper City, Weston and parts of Davie and Hollywood. Book, the Senate minority leader, had announced plans to move into the new district to avoid a primary match-up with state Sen. Rosalind Osgood, who is unopposed.

The primary has gotten statewide attention, as Democrats voiced concerns that Book’s primary would divert resources away from other competitive Senate districts.