Tampa city council member, retired Hillsborough judge revoke endorsements for Jared Smith ahead of election

'My endorsement came before I learned certain things about him, and it does not stand.'

click to enlarge Tampa city council member, retired Hillsborough judge revoke endorsements for Jared Smith ahead of election
Photo by Colin Wolf
Over the past couple of weeks at least three local leaders, including a city councilman and a retired judge, have removed their endorsements for Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Jared Smith, who is running for reelection in Group 37.

The removal of endorsements come after Smith was found to have abused his discretion as a judge in trying to deny a 17-year-old an abortion earlier this year.  And this month, he's been accused of potentially violating judicial ethics during his campaign.

Tampa City Councilman Joe Citro pulled his endorsement, he confirmed to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay today.

Citro said that while he thinks Smith is a good man, this particular judge race has gotten “a little ugly” for his politics. He added that Smith made a statement during a speech to Smith’s church that condemned the entire Democratic Party, but that judges shouldn’t participate in that kind of behavior.

“The judge race is supposed to be non-partisan,” he told CL.

And this afternoon, retired Hillsborough judge E.J. Salcines—who has a 50 year career in law and served 17 years as a judge—told CL that he no longer supports Smith.

"I have withdrawn my endorsement," Salcines, who won the Florida Bar Foundation's Medal of Honor Award in 2021,  told CL. "I've been very disappointed with what I have read about him. My endorsement came before I learned certain things about him, and it does not stand."
Salcines' name is still on Smith's website, and Smith has not yet responded as to why it hasn't been removed.

Last week, La Gaceta reported that Hillsborough County Public Defender Julianne Holt had also pulled her endorsement. Both Citro and Holt no longer appear on Smith's endorsements website.

The revocation of endorsements comes in the midst of early voting and just days ahead of Election Day on Aug 23.

Still, there are those who are standing by endorsing Smith, despite the controversy surrounding the judge—including the Tampa Bay Times.

Earlier this month, the Times editorial board endorsed judge Smith over his opponent Nancy Jacobs. The board acknowledged that Smith made a "troubling" decision earlier this year when he tried to prevent a 17-year-old from getting an abortion, citing her having a C average in school as the reason why.

Smith's decision was overturned by a panel of judges, and he was found to have abused his judicial discretion. When CL contacted the paper, the Times said  the endorsement "speaks for itself" even though it didn't explain why Smith is a better candidate than Jacobs at all.

After the Times' endorsement of Smith, CL first reported that the sitting judge is tying in religion to his campaign for judge, thus infringing on the often overstepped Establishment Clause of the First Amendment: The separation of Church and State.

In a leaked video of a speech at Idlewild Baptist Church—where Smith sits on the Foundation's board of trustees—Smith's wife said to a congregation that Smith's opponent, Jacobs, "needs Jesus." Meanwhile, Jacobs practices Judaism. With Smith standing next to her, she called the congregation their "prayer warriors" and said that it would be a "battle" to defeat Jacobs.

Former Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan says his endorsement for Smith still stands.

"The appeals court process is part of the system and verdicts get changed," Dugan wrote in a text message to CL, referring to Smith being found to have abused his judicial discretion. "I know Judge Smith as a good person."

As of this afternoon, former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's name was not on Smith's "endorsements" section of his campaign website.  But Buckhorn told CL that his endorsement of the judge still stands.

"Nothing has changed," he wrote in a text message. "My position is the same."

Some have accused Smith of using outdated campaign literature that hasn't been  updated to reflect the removal of endorsements.

Erin Wiley, a consultant for Jacobs' campaign, was at an event that both Smith and Jacobs attended last Saturday. She was wearing a shirt supporting Jacobs, and when she walked up to Smith, who was handing out endorsement flyers, she asked for one.

"He refused to hand one to me, so I went to his campaign table where there were a stack of them," Wiley told CL. On the flyers, Julianne Holt was still listed as a supporter, even though she had withdrawn her endorsement. Wiley took a picture showing that Holt's name was still on the flyer.

Judge Smith has not responded to several requests for comment.

Earlier this month, CL reported that the PR firm that Smith has been a client of for months released an attack ad on social media against Jacobs. The ad, which was later removed,  claimed she has sided with “woke” and far left groups and would have an “activist agenda” as judge.

Under Florida Election Law, a disclaimer is required when a candidate or any entity linked to the candidate takes out an ad against an opponent. But the ad contained no such thing. The PR firm claimed that Smith didn't know about the ad, but the week before, Smith had paid the firm $1,000.

Under the "purpose" section of the payment to SMAG, it says: advertisement.

What’s more is that judges are not supposed to say disparaging, non-objective claims about each other or other candidates, especially during political races, under Canon 7 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics.

Other entities, such as political PACs have more agency in criticizing a candidate, but the candidates themselves are not supposed to be involved in that process.

CL has been told on background that several people have sent in complaints to the judicial ethics committee about Smith's behavior, claiming that he has violated the canons, which could potentially get him reprimanded or removed from the bench.

The Times has now published multiple stories framing the situation as two candidates attacking each other, despite the fact that Smith is the only candidate accused of malfeasance in his campaign. The paper noted that Jacobs filed a complaint against Smith with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission. She also accused Smith of “disparaging the faith of an opposing candidate.”

Nowhere in any Times article covering the race has it been mentioned that the Times editorial board endorsed Smith.

UPDATE: Updated at 10 p.m. on 08/17/22 to add a quote and input from councilman Joe Citro.


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Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia has written for The Nation, Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal, the USA Today Network and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

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