Juarez settles defamation suit with PAC and Chamberlin’s campaign manager

File photo: Jose Juarez, “The BarbaCuban,” poses for a photo outside of his marketing office, Victory Solutions, on Southeast First Avenue in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Juarez, an Ocala Republican, opened a campaign account on Monday to run in Marion County’s House District 24 in an attempt to replace former state Rep. Joe Harding, an Ocala Republican who resigned last week after being indicted on charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements. Juarez is the second candidate to file to run for the seat after Belleview Republican Ryan Chamberlin opened a campaign account Friday. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

Home » Politics
Posted September 13, 2023 | By Jennifer Hunt Murty

Jose Juarez, who lost a special election last spring to fill the vacated State House District 24 seat, has settled his defamation suit related to misleading political attack ad mailers linked to eventual winner Ryan Chamberlin’s campaign manager Brett Doster, his Tallahassee company Front Line Agency and a political action committee called Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics.

“We were able to come to an amicable agreement,’’ Juarez told the “Gazette.” “All I was asking for was a letter of apology and my legal fees paid, nothing else.”

The defendants’ joint statement read in part: “In the course of political campaigns, hyperbole and rhetorical arguments can obscure the full picture and measure of a man. After the House District 24 special election concluded in the spring of this past year, we’ve had the opportunity to get better acquainted with a candidate from that race: Jose Juarez. We realize that some of the terminology we used in our messaging about him was unfortunate given Jose’s long-time established record of Christian conviction, conservative service, principled leadership, and honorable business dealings.”

Doster and Chamberlin would not respond to questions from the “Gazette” sent by text.

Juarez was among five candidates in the March 6 Republican special election primary race to replace State Rep. Joe Harding, an incumbent Republican who resigned after being indicted on several fraud counts tied to misusing pandemic-related relief funds. Also in the race were Chamberlin, Charlie Stone, Stephen Pyles and Justin Albright. Chamberlin faced, and defeated, write-in candidate Republican Robert “Foxy” Fox in the May 16 general election.

In the complaint filed in Marion County Circuit Court by Ricardo Reyes of the law firm Tobin, Reyes, Alvarez & De Biase, PLLC, Juarez claimed Chamberlin’s campaign management, through the PAC, conspired to send out mailers that defamed Juarez. One mailer alleged Juarez “scammed taxpayers” out of $214,000. A second mailer pictured Juarez, a Cuban immigrant, alongside what seems to be Mexican drug runners alleging Juarez was funded by “woke corporations” that supported illegal aliens bringing drugs into the U.S.

Both mailers proclaimed, “No way, Jose.”

Juarez pointed out to the “Gazette” several reasons why he filed the defamation complaint.

“I have been a member of this community for over 40 years, and it is important for me my family and my business not to have these absolute untruths spreading throughout the community,’’ he said. “I feel it is very important that we foster an environment politically that will allow good, honest people wanting to serve the community to feel comfortable running for office. Hopefully, this will discourage others from running untruthful negative campaigns.”

When the primary campaign began, Chamberlin proposed a “clean campaign pledge” to his opponents in the primary. The timing was suspect to observers because it coincided with political attack ads linked to Chamberlin’s campaign team arriving in local voters’ mailboxes. Both Juarez and Stone claimed Chamberlin’s clean campaign pledge was disingenuous and pointed to Doster as being behind the mailers that targeted both Stone and Juarez.

In response to news of the settlement, Stone, a longtime former State House member,  told the “Gazette,” “I’m pleased that Brett Doster and Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics finally admitted their wrongdoing in trying to ruin their opponent’s reputation. Their candidate, Ryan Chamberlain, only won because of the tactics that were used against his opponents. This type of negative campaigning must end in Marion County.”

Juarez said this experience has not impacted his desire to run for office again, but he added: “More importantly, I want good people to be encouraged to run for public office without the fear of being attacked.”

The “Gazette” reviewed the last PAC financial reporting during the primary election and found financial contributions flowing from PACs with the same treasurer as Chamberlin’s campaign, Russell Doster, who is the brother of Brett Doster. The campaign funds went to a PAC named Florida First Forever. That PAC, in turn, contributed to Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics–the PAC that was sued by Juarez.

The PAC mailers from Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics were sent out as “electioneering communications.” According to Florida Department of Elections’ PAC handbook, it is not illegal for candidates to coordinate with PACs for electioneering communications. Previously, Chamberlin has declined to answer whether he coordinated those PAC attack mailers with Doster.

Chamberlin’s campaign finance reports indicate he paid Front Line Agency $67,210.56 during the campaign.

The PAC, Doster, and his company were all represented by Chamberlin’s uncle, attorney Stanley W. Plappert.



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