U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is taking one of her former opponents to court over allegations that he defamed her and accused the first-term Democrat of embezzlement to win the seat.
Cherfilus-McCormick filed a complaint in Broward County on Wednesday, asking for damages exceeding $1 million from former Broward County Mayor and current county commissioner Dale Holness, along with his aide Justin Porter.
In the complaint, Cherfilus-McCormick says a text message from Porter on behalf of the Holness campaign claims she bought her seat in Congress.
"We don’t need to embezzle $6 million in taxpayer dollars to buy a seat in Congress. Our opponent may think she can do that. (She probably needs to do so to win)," the text message from Porter said.
Cherfilus-McCormick also claims the two men have engaged in defaming her to the point of "damaging her reputation and inflicting great emotional harm," the lawsuit says.
In a written statement, Cherfilus-McCormick said asserted that she worked hard for everything she has, from earning her law degree to being a single mother.
"Sadly, as I’m running for re-election Dale is working with the Republicans to tarnish my good name that I worked so hard to achieve," she wrote in part. "I am disappointed that Dale can simply make up lies that are hurting my family, friends, and supporters with mailers, text messages, and signs all in hopes of winning an election."
The Holness campaign has not responded to a request from NBC 6 for comment.
Cherfilus-McCormick won a tight race against Holness in the Democratic primary in November 2021 to replace longtime Congressman Alcee Hastings, who died in April. She later defeated Republican Jason Mariner in the general election in January 2022.
Cherfilus-McCormick loaned her campaign more than $3.7 million and far outspent the other Democrats in the race. She wound up with 11,662 votes to 11,657 for Holness. Cherfilus-McCormick became the first Haitian American Democrat in Congress.