The State Representative turned congressional candidate sent out a negative direct mail piece featuring a photo of his opponents home.
By Sean D. Hartman
I want to be clear, before we get into this article, that #ILikeMike. When Orlando State Representative Mike Miller announced his bid for Congress, I was ready and willing to join the Miller campaign. I had anticipated an easy victory for him, and early polling did show Miller leading his main rival, Republican Scott Sturgill.
Yet during this campaign, both Representative Miller and Sturgill have been viciously attacking each other so much that I publicly declared an abstention from the Republican Congressional Primary. And though I maintain that abstention, the recent attack ad against Sturgill show a new low for the Miller campaign, with not only blatant invasion of privacy but potential criminality involved.
I also want to be clear that I am referring to the Miller campaign in this article, and not Representative Miller himself. Having known the Representative for a few years, as well as through private conversation, I can tell this isn’t who he truly is. I truly believe that it is the Miller campaign staff who are telling him his best bet to win is to play dirty, putting Representative Miller in the quagmire he is now in. His staff, I sadly feel, may have destroyed his victory in this Primary, if not his entire legacy. And it is a shame, because Representative Miller is the exemplar of public service that all, including Sturgill, should emulate.
However, the recent attack ad from the Miller campaign seems to take it a step too far, with a picture of Scott Sturgill’s personal residence in the background leading to concerns of a violation of privacy.
Though the house itself is slightly obscured by text, and the address is not provided, it shows a willingness to violate the privacy of an opponent that creates a dangerous precedent for future candidates.
It also begs the question—who took the photograph? Was this photograph on record, or did a Miller campaign volunteer go onto Sturgill’s property to take this photo? Because if it was the latter, we have a very real legal crisis for the Miller campaign just weeks before the Republican Primary.
Imagine if the Sturgill campaign took a picture of Representative Miller’s residence. Where he, his wife, and his children, all live. Even if you omit an address, that type of invasion of privacy should scare any family man, of which both Representative Miller and Sturgill both are.
This becomes even more concerning if both those family men are fathers of teenage daughters.
Now the aspects of the attack ad have some soundness to it. If the accusations are true that the Sturgill campaign has been misusing campaign funds, Sturgill must answer for them. Just as an invasion of privacy is illegal, embezzlement is also illegal, and worse. The contents of this advertisement cannot be swept under the rug, and I am currently following up on those allegations and am preparing a future article if these allegations have merit. Sturgill’s campaign has labeled the mailer as “misleading and disgusting.”
Even if Sturgill becomes the Republican Nominee, and especially if he does, the Central Florida Post will hold him accountable, as we do all politicians from both sides of the aisle.
In addition, if Sturgill did have a bankruptcy, though a normal occurrence for many business leaders, it does bring into question his fiscal responsibility. How can we elect someone to balance their own budget when they themselves could not? Especially if their campaign focuses heavily on his private-sector experience? Sturgill’s bankruptcy is fair game, and it should be addressed should Sturgill want to win.
But that does not change the misleading and concerning manner this campaign mailer has been presented. And the invasion of privacy is just one part of this.
The Miller campaign has recognized the political power of President Trump during the Republican Primaries, and Representative Miller has attempted to capitalize on this, racking up endorsements from local Trump/Pence campaign surrogates, such as State Representative Joe Gruters and Randy Ross, the current President of the Trump 2020 Club, who has been embroiled in several financial scandals in the past. Sturgill too racked up endorsement from Trump/Pence surrogates such as Libertarian Roger Stone, a controversial political operative who supported the Trump campaign from the beginning.
This advertisement adds to that notion, showing President Trump saluting “successful conservative Mike Miller”. The problem is that President Trump has not endorsed anyone in this race, but the Miller campaign is implying that their candidate received his support. The Miller campaign has used this tactic before, falsely implying that Governor Rick Scott has endorsed Representative Miller by splicing together old clips of the Governor’s previous support of his State Legislative candidacy.
But all of this brings me back to my constant criticism of the Miller campaign—that his staff is advising him to be someone he is not. One Orange County Democrat explained how he was disappointed with Representative Miller’s sudden about-face, referring to the State Representative as “weak.”
“Mike and I work together on several legislative issues,” the Democrat said. “I know what his heart really believes, and its just a bit disappointing to me.”
Representative Miller has always been a bipartisan statesman who approached campaigning with civility and a commitment to the issues and his constituents. There is honestly a part of me that feels he knows he betrayed his values. There is a part of me that feels he is disappointed at how his campaign has been run. Sadly, he must take responsibility for his failures, which he has done before with humility. Even with my harsh criticisms, he has always shown respect for my views. And my view, as I have repeated, is that this is not Representative Miller. This is the work of shoddy campaign advisors who tried to throw stones in a glass house. And we are watching that house shatter.
Sean David Hartman is a reporter for the Central Florida Post, covering entertainment and public affairs. He describes himself as a “Professional Political Nuisance” and goes after politicians on both sides. Hartman is an autism rights activist, and #ProudlyAutistic.