Circuit Court candidate Howard Friedman raised a deeply personal grievance with Jeff Ashton, attacking the former state attorney in a new campaign mailer for firing Friedman’s wife after she got cancer.

As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, the new mailer shows a picture of Friedman and wife Annette Shultz as she lay in a hospital bed. Shultz previously worked in the state attorney’s office but her position was eliminated after Ashton was elected as State Attorney in late 2012.

The Sentinel reports Shultz was originally diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2003, and returned to work in 2004. Then-state attorney Lawson Lamar reassigned her to the intake division, a less physically demanding role than her prior work. Ashton eliminated the intake division after he took over the office in 2012.

Shultz filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in 2015. The mailer notes that case was settled, “paid for by your tax dollars.”

Ashton called the mailer “as personal an attack as I’ve seen in politics.”

“Personal vendettas and personal vindictiveness are some of the worst qualities a judge can have,” he told the newspaper.

Friedman in the same mailer goes on raise a separate character issue with Ashton, namely the candidate’s prior use of infidelity website Ashley Madison, which made national headlines in outlets like CNN in 2015.

“I am running for judge because I believe my work ethic, experience and moral principles surpass Mr. Ashton’s,” Friedman writes. “In my opinion, judgment and character matter.”

Ashton lost re-election as State Attorney in 2016. He filed to run for Circuit Judge on Dec. 21, and Friedman, a former general magistrate, filed shortly after on Dec. 21. The two are the only candidates running for the 9th Judicial Circuit Court seat.

Both candidates have contributed about $100,000 of their own money for the campaign. Friedman has raised a little more than $9,500 in other monetary contributions. Ashton has pulled in a little more than $3,900 in cash donations.

About The Author

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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