Ilene Lieberman probably should have just stayed home.
There were many reasons for the County Judge candidate not to attend a Fort Lauderdale Tea Party forum on Saturday. One, Lieberman is a politician who has raised tons of money as a part of the Broward Democratic Party machine, so it's enemy territory right off the bat. Secondly she has little experience in law, but lots in government, having spent 28 straight years in elected office. Third, she's been involved in recent scandal -- and whatever you think of the Tea Party, they're pretty good at finding politicians' weak spots.
So it's no wonder the forum was a small disaster for Lieberman, who is being term-limited from the Broward County Commission after her fourth term. She rushed through a prepared statement before having to answer a thorny question about her involvement in the criminal corruption case against Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco. Then the Tea Party membership voted overwhelmingly for her opponent, Kathleen "Katie" McHugh, in a straw poll. And not long after that, an organizer of the event wrote a blog post with the Lieberman video, slamming her, and endorsing McHugh.
"If Broward looks at experience and ignores party affiliation, the choice is clear that McHugh is the most qualified candidate," wrote Tea Party organizer Gabe Carerra. "... Let’s vote for Kathleen McHugh to maintain the dignity of the Broward Judiciary on August 14, 2012!"
All in a days campaigning. Here is what Lieberman said at the forum about getting immunity to testify against her former friend Talabisco.
"Well, first of all you should know I am a witness in a criminal situation and under Florida law when you are subpoenaed to testify you get immunity," Lieberman said. "There's no special reason one way or the other. I was subpoenaed that's why I have immunity."
There's a lot more to the Talabisco story than her immunity. There's sworn testimony that contradicts her own sworn testimony about her involvement in the political committee at the heart of that case (which was dropped by Judge Cynthia Imperato and is now under appeal). There's the fact that at one point she was under investigation herself. And there's Lieberman's involvement with the bribe-paying developers Bruce and Shawn Chait, who contributed $25,000 to her favorite charity at the time she was supporting their controversial project.
But then again, none of that fits into good campaign sound bites either.