Longtime Miami-Dade Public Defender Bennett Brummer is being challenged for re-election by a former assistant, Gabriel Martin. The reslting campaign is the nastiest for the state public defender’s office since Brummer was first elected in 1976, the Miami Herald reports. Brummer has been hit with civil and criminal complaints filed by former employees who allege various campaign violations. Brummer, a 63-year-old Democrat who has raised about $150,000 from supporters in the legal establishment, has had only two opponents in seven previous elections. He oversees an office with a $25 million budget and 175 lawyers who every year represent about 90,000 indigent criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire their own attorneys. The public defender’s salary is about $137,000 a year.
Brummer said he considers Martin an unseasoned lawyer with potential and no management skills. Furthermore, he charges that Martin has used surrogates — at least four “disgruntled” current or former assistant public defenders — to orchestrate a “smear campaign” against him. Martin, a 33-year-old Republican who hopes to raise about $100,000 through grass-roots campaign donations, denies the accusation. “I like Bennett Brummer. I respect him because he has devoted his life to public service,” said Martin, who is making his first run for public office. “But I know I can do a better job. I feel the people of Miami-Dade deserve better.”