When Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Chris Anderson looked at tax collector Joel Greenberg’s qualifying form and saw that he had declared bitcoin, he wasn’t surprised.
“Joel is the only person that I know that knows anything about bitcoin,” Anderson told TPM.
But for Anderson, it wasn’t Greenberg’s crypto holdings that proved to be a headache in the 2020 elections so much as another phantasmic presence: that of so-called “ghost candidates,” candidates who lack party affiliation, don’t run substantial campaigns, but exist solely to siphon votes away from others in the race.
What Anderson encountered comes as part of what may be a pattern of ghost candidates running in Seminole County, at least two of whom appeared in races in which allies of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) were running. Greenberg, Gaetz’s longtime buddy and potential federal cooperating witness, appears to have run in a race with a ghost candidate before a federal grand jury indicted him in June 2020.
And in that case, the apparent ghost candidate dropped out within days of charges being filed against Greenberg.
The Orlando Sentinel reported on the race, in which Daniel L. Day ran as an unaffiliated candidate in a race with Greenberg, other Republicans, and a Democrat named Lynn Moira Dictor. The Orlando Weekly first reported suspicions that Day was a sham candidate meant to siphon votes away from Dictor.
Day, however, refused to run under his birth name, and instead chose to run under what he told elections officials was a nickname: Dani Mora Day.
That stoked suspicions that Day had altered his name to make it closer to Dictor, the Democrat in the race.
“He did it in an effort to siphon off efforts that were female, he registered as Dani to be female and Mora because it’s my name,” Moira Dictor told TPM. “It was to imply that he was me.”
Other elements of Day’s candidacy brought him closer to Greenberg. Most notably, he dropped out immediately after Greenberg was indicted and left the race.
Another episode from 2016 also raised eyebrows. Then, Day ran as a write-in candidate for Seminole County tax collector – the race that Greenberg first won.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that in so doing, Day activated an arcane provision in Florida election law which created a closed August Republican primary for the race. Greenberg defeated the 27-year incumbent in that primary.
Federal prosecutors later accused Greenberg of abusing the powers of his office as tax collector, including an allegation that he used fake IDs “to engage in commercial sex acts.” A federal criminal inquiry is now reportedly focused on Gaetz’s potential involvement.
Gaetz himself, the New York Times reported, discussed running a third candidate in a senate race, also in Seminole County. That race saw an unaffiliated candidate named Jestine Iannotti run with support from two mysterious political committees that allegedly financed ghost candidates elsewhere in Florida.
Iannotti appeared in a race against Jason Brodeur, a Republican state senate candidate that the New York Times described as an “associate” of Gaetz’s. The Times reported that Chris Dorworth, a lobbyist who resigned from his firm earlier this month, spoke with Gaetz about the race on the call.
— Joel Greenberg (@JoelGreenbergTC) June 22, 2019
Anderson, the election supervisor and a former employee of Greenberg’s at the tax collector’s office, emphasized to TPM that there was little his office could do about so-called “ghost candidates.”
“JFK’s father paid a candidate named Joseph Russo to run in a primary that his son JFK was in where there was another Joseph Russo,” Anderson related, suggesting that this was not a new tactic. “That was in 1947.”
“I point out that to say that these are campaign and candidate issues,” he added, pointing out that it would be “bad” if he had the authority to unilaterally remove candidates from ballots.
Candidate registration documents obtained by TPM show that Day, whose listed his employment as at an Orlando-area golf course, provided a Twitter account which appears to have tweeted four times since its creation in March 2014 under the name “D. Mora Day.”
“D. Moralizer Day. Aka D. Mora,” the account’s biography reads. “Politics and Sports are my thing. Come get Mora Da King.”
The filing fee to run in the race was $6,165, an amount that Day loaned to himself, campaign finance records show.
As a golf course employee, Day declared an income of $20,000 in 2019 with a net worth of $15,000. A state court case, first reported by the Orlando Sentinel, shows a collection firm suing Day for $1,353 in credit card debt. A judge garnished Day’s wages from a separate job at the South Florida YWCA.
A number left for Day on his candidate registration forms led to a Google voice account. Nobody returned repeated calls from TPM left at that number.
Day has appeared elsewhere as tied to Greenberg. In December 2017, Greenberg backed an effort to change the county’s political structure. The Sentinel reported that when asked about the effort, Greenberg referred the paper to Daniel Day.
Other sham candidates in Florida who ran in 2020 have attracted attention in part because of a criminal case that ensnared one. Miami prosecutors allege that Frank Artiles, a former state senator, paid a man with the same last name as a Democratic incumbent $44,000 to run.
In both that contest and the race that Gaetz reportedly discussed, mailers with the names of two political committees – The Truth and Our Florida – were sent out to advertise the candidates who otherwise had no substantial campaigns, first reported by Local 10 News.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars flowed through those committees from a source that has yet to be uncovered.