Orange County Commission candidate Pete Crotty is fending off accusations from people whom he says are falsely tying him to controversial, hard-line drug policies held by time-share mogul and opioids epidemic  crusader David Siegel.

Crotty stated that, contrary to a flurry of social media activity in recent days, he does not share Siegel’s more extreme policy positions on drugs. He said he has worked with Siegel on a number of drug addiction programs, including talking to jail inmates, and respects what he has done, but that does not mean they agree on everything.

Crotty, a recovering addict, now for 17 years, and a longtime activist in the Central Florida addiction self-help community, said he supports medical marijuana and opposes mandatory drug testing of school children.

Last week a video clip surfaced in which David Siegel, sitting beside Crotty on a podcast called The Ted Show, expresses some of his more controversial views on drugs and finishes with what amounts to an endorsement, saying, “I’ve known Pete for a long time. He’ll make an excellent county commissioner.” Crotty does not speak during the clip, and said he regrets now that he did not attempt to challenge Siegel on a couple of his comments.

The clip has become a hot topic on political discussion sites, and Crotty said he was concerned that it was being twisted against him.

Pete Crotty is seeking the Orange County Commission District 3 seat expected to open to an election this year because incumbent Pete Clarke is running for mayor. Other candidates include Bobby Lance, Gus Martinez, Bill Moore, Eric Rollings, and Mayra Uribe.

David and Jacqueline Siegel lost their 18-year-old daughter Victoria to opioid overdose in 2015, and started a foundation to combat opioid addiction. He also was very active on Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs‘ heroin task force as a result.

In his crusade, Siegel has expressed strong opposition to medical marijuana, which he called a gateway drug, and has advocated for mandatory drug testing of students, starting in middle school.

Those aren’t my positions, said Crotty, who is the brother of former Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty.

Crotty said he considers drug-testing of students to be unconstitutional, and a moot point, adding, “Rather than testing students, we should be talking with them about coping skills, values, and self-esteem issues.”

He said the video clip now has gotten more than 13,000 views.

“I have no problem with medical marijuana. It truly is helping people,” Crotty said. “I’d rather give someone medical marijuana than an opioid.”

He declined to criticize Siegel for advocating such views, saying he, his wife, and their foundation have done plenty of good, particularly with efforts to get naloxone into the hands of all first responders in Orange County.

Siegel, a longtime backer of Republican campaigns, attended Crotty’s campaign kickoff and donated $1,000 to Crotty’s campaign. Siegel’s CFI Resorts Management also donated $1,000.

“It’s about helping people. With the opioid thing, Mr. Siegel has been a great proponent on that,” Crotty said.

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