New York, USA — Dale Holness, the Jamaican-born Florida-based businessman and his campaign in the Democratic primary for the State's 20th Congressional district, are now embroiled in a lawsuit brought by his opponent, Congresswoman Chefilus McCormick.
McCormick's suit, filed in the Broward County circuit court last month, accuses Holness and a member of his campaign staff of defamation for making what she describes as "maliciously false statements" about her in a fund-raising message sent to voters via text message and mail.
"We don't need to embezzle $6 million in taxpayers dollars to buy a seat in congress. Our opponent may think she can do that. She maybe need to do so to win," the text, said in part, without naming anyone.
But the text message seemingly refers to unsubstantiated allegations which have surfaced in recent months accusing McCormick of using taxpayers money to help fund her campaign last year, during which she eked out a razor thin five-vote win over Holness
She has been under intense scrutiny since news emerged that she reported more than $6 million in earnings for 2021, a huge increase over the $86,000 which she reported for the previous year.
McCormick is seeking more than US$1 million in damages, according to her law suit.
"I am disappointed that Dale can simply make up lies that are hurting my family, friends and supporters with mailers, text messages and signs, all in hopes of winning an election," she is quoted as saying in a statement to the Miami Herald – Florida's largest newspaper.
But, in his response, Holness pushed back on McCormick's law suit, describing it as "frivolous" and pointing out that "her name was never mentioned nor was there any reference in the text messages and other campaign materials sent out directly linking her," he told the Jamaica Observer.
"It is pure opinion," he said of the text messages, adding that he had not personally authorised the messages nor the other material mentioned in the the law suit, but that he would be responding to the suit forcefully.
The law suit comes as Holness is ramping up his campaign with increased face-to-face and personal interactions with voters. He has been visiting churches and community events across the district, as well as polling.
Asked about his chances of winning the August 23 primary, Holness responded: "Right now it's a close race, and in politics you never say it's over until the last vote is counted."
He said that the greatest challenge facing his campaign at this time was funding and acknowledged that as was the case last year, he is being heavily outspent by his opponent.
However, with Florida's 20th Congressional District having undergone redistricting, as a result of the 2020 Untied States census, and with some of the better known candidates from last year deciding not run this time around, the Hanover-born Holness is hoping for success.
Whoever wins the primary election later this month will face off with the Republican Party's candidate in the November mid-term elections for a full two year-term in Congress.