I gave Chris Chiari his say this morning, so state Rep. Evan Jenne gets to use the bully Pulp-it this afternoon.
I asked Jenne, a Democrat from Dania Beach, what he thought about the surprise challenge to his House seat from Chiari, and here's what he said:
"I think it's odd, first of all. [Chiari] was president of the Broward Young Democrats, and he gave me two awards, including the President's Award. I have it on my wall. He contributed to my second campaign. He has never once mentioned a stance I have taken that he didn't agree with. I would have to guess he has a personal problem with me and this is how he chooses to go forward with it. He hasn't called me about this or anything, so I'm not quite sure when he had this revelation about what a horrible person I am."
What about Chiari's allegation that Jenne is too close to lobbyist Judy Stern, who has managed his campaigns?
"Judy Stern doesn't lobby at all in Tallahassee," said Jenne, who was first elected to the District 100 seat covering Dania and parts of Davie and Cooper City in 2006. "I have never seen her in Tallahassee lobbying once. I think Mr. Chiari doesn't understand how that works. She's never lobbied me. She's registered to lobby with the county or some cities but not in Tallahassee."
Jenne countered Chiari's allegation that he's a tool for special interests by pointing to the pro-business Associated Industries of Florida low ranking of him as a legislator.
"I would ask [Chiari] to review my voting record," Jenne said. "I would point to the Associated Industries of Florida rankings of me. They are the end-all be-all when it comes to pro-business groups. Quite proudly, I was ranked 120 out of 120 by them. The facts fly in the face of every comment you've reiterated to me that he has made. That ranking was based on my position on oil drilling and workers' rights. The only people who bought and paid me are the 150,000 people who live in that district. Those are the only people I care about."
Jenne works as a business consultant for two health companies based in Broward County. He wouldn't reveal the names of the companies but said they don't do any business with the state. He acknowledged that they have contracts with the North Broward Hospital District and other local governments, however. I asked Jenne if it was true, as Chiari has said, that he ultimately wants to be a lobbyist.
"If I'm not in politics, I don't see myself wanting to lobby, because I've seen that business and I know how ugly it is," he says. "What really interests me is working for an NGO and bring some attention to it. I'd like to do some good in this world."
He said Chiari might feel that he or other leaders didn't support him enough during his last state House run against Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Republican. Jenne offered no apologies on that issue.
"The guy was going to lose -- we knew that all along," Jenne said. "She worked him over. Yet [Chiari] still felt he deserved it even though the writing was on the wall."