In one of the more bizarre twists we've seen to an already wild election season, a School Board candidate says she was injured in a post-debate handshake that bruised her hand and ultimately led to a hospital visit.
School Board candidate Jaemi Levine said that after last night's debate at the All County Music store in Tamarac with opponent Dave Thomas, he squeezed her hand for several moments in apparent anger at what she'd said about him at the podium.
She said that she then went with a supporter, Broward Teachers Union steward Joan King, to a nearby restaurant, where her hand swelled up and showed bruising, prompting her waitress to get her some ice.
When she went home, Levine says, her husband told her she needed to go to the hospital. X-rays taken at University Hospital were negative for a fracture, but she said the doctor told her she had sustained a "crush injury."
UPDATED: Levine filed a criminal complaint against Thomas today with the Broward Sheriff's Office. Thomas returned my call to say he wouldn't be commenting because of the criminal investigation.
"[Thomas] offered me his hand after the debate, which I took, and he started to squeeze," Levine told me this morning. "Very quietly, he said, 'Don't ever question my honesty and integrity again.'"
Inside, see what happened next (hint: "Ivory Johnson" is involved).
Levine says Thomas, a high school teacher and former naval officer, was apparently angry that she had mentioned during the debate that his "greatest suppporter" -- former School Board member Stephanie Kraft -- had been arrested and jailed recently. She had also said that while her integrity had not been questioned, Thomas' had and told the audience to Google him.
What Levine said after Thomas told her never to question his integrity again only put more gasoline on the fire.
"Really, Ivory?" she said.
That was a rather snarky reference to the embarrassing "Ivory Johnson" affair, during which an obvious Thomas supporter using a grotesque "Pig Man" avatar launched sometimes personal attacks on Levine and King. When Thomas accidentally responded to a political activist on Facebook from the "Ivory Johnson" profile, it was seemingly revealed that Thomas was in fact the bomb thrower. But Thomas says that "Ivory Johnson" was a former student of his and that he was on the student's computer at Tijuana Flats at the time he sent the message. Read all about that here.
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When Levine called Thomas "Ivory," he became angrier, she said.
"He squeezed even harder," said Levine. "He had my hand close to him and was squeezing as hard as he could. I said, 'Please let go.' He just kept squeezing it. I said 'Let go' again. I tried to pull my hand away, and he wouldn't let go. The third time, I said really loudly, 'You need to let go of my hand -- you're hurting me!' He kind of threw my hand and turned his back and said, 'I did no such thing.'"
She said there were witnesses to the event, including King and a Coral Springs Forum reporter, Arun Sivasankaran. Pictured at right is a photo Levine sent the Pulp of her hands (should have a larger one soon). Notice how grotesquely swollen her right hand is in the photo. There is also a bruise on her pinky finger.
Levine said she's considering filing a report with the police. Thomas didn't respond to two detailed voice messages asking for comment on the alleged incident. I will update as soon as I hear from him.