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Abby Romaine-Greg Hansen Debate Collapses Amid Muddy Accusations and Unanswered Questions

| August 16, 2018

greg hansen abby romaine

Greg Hansen agreed to debate Abby Romaine in what would have been the only candidate debate ahead of the Aug. 28 primary. Today, he said he would not do so. Hansen and Romaine are candidates for a Flagler County Commission seat. (© FlaglerLive)

A week ago Abby Romaine emailed Greg Hansen, suggesting the two of them debate. Hansen is a Flagler County commissioner, a governor appointee to fill out the seat held by the late Frank Meeker. Romaine is challenging Hansen in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.

“The voters would benefit from hearing our positions on the issues so they can make an informed choice at the ballot box,” Romaine wrote Hansen. She suggested a debate on the radio. WNZF General Manager David Ayres told her she and Hansen would have to buy the time. She suggested to Hansen that the two campaigns split the $200 cost. “This seems to be the easiest, most cost-effective means of hosting a debate on limited notice,” Romaine wrote him.

Within the hour, Hansen wrote back: “I would love to debate you, but not on the radio. If you can find a venue where we can invite the public I am all in.”

“All in” was a bit premature.

“Because of the recent lies and the slander which you are allowing to be pushed in this election,”Hansen wrote Romaine around noon today, “I rescind my offer to debate you. I do not believe you are capable of an honest debate or campaign.”

It’s not clear what “recent lies” and “slander” Hansen is referring to. He did not respond to text, email or phone attempts to contact him. Romaine says she’s offended by Hansen’s charge. “You have just levied serious and salacious accusations towards me that have zero basis in fact. This is completely unacceptable,” she wrote him this afternoon.

Hansen may have been put off by unattributed social media postings and a mailer calling him a “liberal” and taking issue with his lobbying past and its connection to a firm that became embroiled in scandal.

An Aug. 3 posting on an obscure new, anonymous Facebook page called “Flagler Politics” (not to be confused with the more established Flagler Politics page, whose administrators are more transparent) features an anonymously authored video, cheaply produced and narrated by a flat female voice, and calls Hansen a “liberal.” Hansen a few years ago had been a core member of the now-defunct Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies, a rabidly right-wing group that splintered off the local tea party for finding it too liberal. Its members can now be found in a newly formed “Trump Club.”

But in a political season, a candidate can be caught sneezing to his left and be called liberal, which is what the dot-connecting video, echoed by a mailer that invaded Republican voters’ mailboxes in the last few days, does: Hansen eight years ago donated to Steve Israel, a Democratic representative from New York who later served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and who last year after his retirement said on CNN that Donald Trump should “call Nancy Pelosi” to get things done–all of which somehow makes Hansen a liberal.

The message is so preposterous that Romaine herself ridiculed it–and denounced it today in an interview, insisting that she had nothing to do with it or even knew about the mailer. She said she’d seen the message on Facebook though.

“I don’t think that he’s a liberal, I wouldn’t say that,” Romaine said, and twice responded that yes, she would denounce the mailer, though she had not seen it in mailer form.

“Someone showed me a mailer about me that said I’m a crazy liberal Democrat, I haven’t seen one about Hansen,” she said. The mailer about Romaine is equally preposterous–and inaccurate, calling her a “lifelong Democrat” (she says she’d been an independent for a decade before more recently switching to Republican) and “the liberal in our ranks!” because she’d previously been endorsed by Democrats and “praised Obama,” bi-partisan qualities that are not usually reflections of heresy except in primary elections, when candidates try to appeal to the most extreme wing of their party. Democrats are currently doing likewise, trying to paint each other as concubines of Trump, corporations and polluters.

“I was a Democrat 20 years ago, and I don’t slam people I try to have productive conversations with people,” Romaine said. “It’s painting me as a nasty person, it’s not accurate. To say I’m not a real Republican, that’s not accurate, that’s a decision I made as an adult using my life experiences and cognitive abilities and I came to that decision on my own, so it’s a commitment on my own.” She described herself as a moderate, though her switch to Republican was almost certainly inspired by the same strategic impulse that led Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland–a friend and supporter of Romaine’s–and Eddie Branquinho, the Palm Coast City Council candidate and long-time Democrat, to do likewise: Democrats haven’t been winning elections in Flagler County.

But Hansen’s criticism of Romaine seems disingenuous in light of the mailer about her. “It sounds like he sent out a mailer about me and this other group sent out a mailer about him that sounds kind of similar, which is kind of ironic,” Romaine said. “But I think the real issue is that he doesn’t want to debate me, to talk about issues.”

Romaine may have been willing to denounce the mailer but she was quick to suggest that Hansen’s past as a lobbyist was fair game–a message echoed through those anonymous Facebook pages.

Hansen has refused to answer questions about his years with the PMA Group and the circumstances of his departure from the firm immediately before it was raided by the FBI and shut down a year after Hansen left. The firm’s owner, Paul Magliocchetti, pleaded guilty to funneling illegal campaign donations to lawmakers on defense appropriations committees from straw contributors. Appropriations meant big paydays for defense contractors on PMA’s client list. Israel, the Democrats to whom Hansen sent a contribution, was on one such committee.

Information about Hansen’s lobbying history was locally posted on a Facebook page called Better Government and Leadership that endorses Romaine, Branquinho, former Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts (who’s running for Palm Coast council) and County Commission Candidate Joe Mullins. It is the same page that once endorsed Holland, Nick Klufas and Bob Cuff for Palm Coast council. The page’s administrators are anonymous, but it appears to have connections to a political action committee called the Better Government Leadership Fund, a Tallahassee-based PAC with tentacles across the state that’s paid for thousands of dollars in political advertising in The Observer and through Marketing 2 Go, the social media company. The local tentacles formed when attempting to counter the take-over of the Flagler Republican Party by the more rabid faction represented by Anne Marie Schaffer, who briefly led the executive committee.

Romaine said she has no connection with any political action committee nor is receiving money from a PAC (as her campaign finance reports so far confirm). But she managed at the same time to disavow her connection with whoever was disseminating the video and other lobbying-related information about Hansen while echoing its message: “To say he’s liberal, that doesn’t resonate, but what I’ve read from that employer, that scheme that his employer went to prison over, involved contributing to these senators who at the time the Democrats were in power and were running the defense appropriations committee,” she said. “But I’m not talking about that on my campaign, I’m talking about positive things.”

She said Hansen reversing course on the debate and blaming it on “lies” was “just a smoke and mirror act so he doesn’t have to have a debate with me.”

The debate format, mostly coordinated by John Walsh, The Observer’s publisher, with input from WNZF and FlaglerLive, was to entail 10 questions from each candidate to the other, without the involvement of media, and was to be moderated by Greg Davis, chairman of the new Flagler Tiger Bay Club, the non-partisan organization.

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25 Responses for “Abby Romaine-Greg Hansen Debate Collapses Amid Muddy Accusations and Unanswered Questions”

  1. BW says:

    Interesting. Hansen’s lack of transparency and reluctance to answer questions throughout his campaign is telling. Where the advertising dollars are going from that PAC is also telling. He should not be serving on our Commission now & it’s sad if this community votes him in for continued service on our Commission. Hansen is a part of the problem and not the solution.

  2. atilla says:

    Hansen has too much to hide. He’s worthless and must ousted.

  3. Marty Barrett says:

    Two conservative morons arguing over whether one has been accused of being open minded and tolerant. “Damn it, I am not a liberal, I am just as close minded as you are!!” . What a robust debate that would be.

  4. tulip says:

    I clicked on the blue addresses of the PMA and FBI that Pierre listed in his article and read them, especially about the PMA lobbying one. Sneaky company and people up to no good, just like the Reagan Rads he belonged to that schemed and lied. Perhaps Hansen is too “well connected”.

    A fresh face and untainted opinions and ideas and a clean slate are what’s needed on the BOCC, instead of the rascals we have now.

  5. Knows Jack says:

    Hansen gives another F U to the voters! Did not answer all of Flaglerlive’s questions, did not answer any Observer questions and now refuses to debate.

    Hansen- please tell us where you stand on the issues.

  6. mark101 says:

    Not sure why we need county commissioners when they all bow down and let Craig Coffey run the county his way. Save the money and forget county commissioners .

  7. JimBob says:

    The true test is whether either has a “MAGA” tattoo. That is commitment!

  8. Alan says:

    Hansen contributed $38,000 to Paul Magliocchetti Associates, Inc. PAC and the PMA Group PAC. Is it any wonder he refuses to engage in Public debate or answer any questions about his past !! We need a fresh, honest face on the county commission.

  9. thomas says:

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Mark.

  10. Dan Floyd says:

    Marty Barrett,
    You are claiming that the left is “tolerant”. That’s hysterical!!

  11. Merrill Shapiro says:

    Both Hansen and Romaine are running away from the moniker “Liberal” because it might impugn their roles as members of the pussy-grabbing party of Putin! Instead of a debate, they can now devote their time, effort, energy and attention to figuring out how to tear more three-year-olds from their parents arms and put them in cages. Their callous indifference to the well-being of Flagler County’s public school students demonstrated by the absence of any calls to limit assault weapons in our community while supporting universal background checks for gun buyers speaks for itself.

    If I am wrong here, let’s hear it from these and other Republican candidates. Go ahead! Denounce your party’s abasing behavior! Criticize the lack of action as Russia seeks to control our elections and destroy our democracy. Call for a restoration of all those children seized by ICE to their families. Make the safety of our school students paramount, not by taking away anyone’s Second Amendment rights but simply by putting some limitations on assault-type weapons, bump stocks, etc. Go ahead, Abby! Go ahead, Greg! i dare you. You’ve freely and of your own volition, chosen to be Republicans. Be grown-ups and accept the consequences of that decision!

  12. tulip says:

    To M SHAPIRO Just because a person changes party affiliation doesn’t make them a disloyal person. There are both good and bad Republicans and good and bad Democrats. Just because Trump and Hillary and a few others have screwed up their parties does not mean that all candidates are like them or think like them.

    I found your post a bit off the wall, as I can’t imagine any of our candidates that are Republican doing what you wrote. Perhaps you should also criticize the Democrat candidates and make them denounce what their party has done or not done to make life miserable.

    A person has the right to change their mind as to their party affiliation because their beliefs change. Ever notice how many Independents there are now? More and more people are beginning to realize that no party affiliation is perfect and like to have choice of voting for whom they agree with, even though their ability to vote in the Primaries is limited but have all the choices in the General election.

  13. Concerned Citizen says:

    Ahhh politics.

    It does not take long for adults to start name calling and insulting in political matters LOL.

  14. Really says:

    Vote the Incumbents out across the Board.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Vote Dennis McDonald in November. Did Romaine have the personal funds to give herself a loan to qualify to run????Hmmmmmm. Show me the money!

  16. Anon says:

    VOTE OUT ALL right winger republicans. Stop voting more corrupt trump supporters. Where are the independent and democratic candidates? For every democrat that does something corrupt, there are 25 republicans doing even worse corrupt, perverse things.

  17. snapperhead says:

    If not aligning myself with the likes of Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Blowhard Limbaugh and the like, makes me a liberal, i’ll proudly wear that badge. If GOP policy is so much better than Democrats, why is it most of the states at the bottom of rankings for education, income, poverty, divorce,obesity etc etc are primarily run by GOP governors and legislatures. Murica…Git-R-Dun

  18. Sandra G Fletcher says:

    The left has become totally intolerable because they have no message of what they can do for our country ~~ instead it is WHAT CAN OUR COUNTRY DO FOR THEM!!! what a joke — they want the government to supply them with everything in life to be FREE! My question the left is: Just who do you think the government is and where does the monies come from for all of the FREE STUFF. If you do not know the answer, then you had better be finding out. The first suggestion I have is: GET A JOB AND WORK FOR WHAT YOU WANT JUST LIKE THE REPUBLICANS AND INDEPENDENTS DO. I am so tires of paying for “lazy” people in this country. Prayers going out for the liberal left — have a blessed day.

  19. 107 says:

    Hansen is avoiding we the people from hearing the debate. He at first thought having a debate for a smaller audience would get him off the hook and then apparently realized it could still be aired on live radio and backed out all together. Hansen is clueless and loves his job…out tax dollars are helping him repay his near half a million dollar debt! He was appointed—-we voters didn’t vote him in office. He used his brother-in-law connection to get appointed. Greg Hansen has failed us. Greg Hansen has allowed Craig Coffey to spend us broke and as. Result has again voted to raise our taxes!! Greg Hansennis not qualified to be a county commissioner and must not be elected in 2018!! Abby needs to win the Primary and Dennis McDonakd the General. This will be a guarantee that the same old hood boys must go!! Incumbents need to be sent a message that we voters now hold you and your staff accountable. Start packing Greg Hansen.

  20. gmath55 says:

    @ Sandra G Fletcher – spot on! Democrats are way far into fantasy land.No agenda for Americans. What do the top ten cities with the highest poverty rate all have in common?


    There are still people like Anon who still believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus though.

  21. 107 says:

    The Geek and the Freak—Vote for Dennis McDonald in November 2018!!

  22. 107 says:

    Why are people on here talking about Democrat leadership when none of the candidates in this race are Democrat? Dennis McDonald is running as No Party Affiliation……that is as far as you Democrats are going to get to a Democrat in office. Vote Dennis McDonald in Novmember 2018!!

  23. Jim O says:

    Abby is a really nice person…. but a very unqualified candidate. It would be scary to have her in any capacity of government.

  24. mausborn says:

    The Republican Party has radically changed since the 1800’s. The party gained so much credibility and support with it’s anti-slavery stance around 1840.The party supported land legislation that appealed to farmers. The party also supported the construction of railroads and federal aid in the improve harbors and rivers.Eventually winning the support of business leaders by putting forth strong financial policies and high tariffs. Failing support from the agricultural interests in the west and industry in the East. They fell out of power with the Great Depression. The history of excluding voters Was actually introduced after the Civil War. Radicals in the party wanted to prohibit soldiers that served in the Confederate Army, the right to vote. Theodore Roosevelt brought suits against several large monopolies and crusaded for honesty in government. The recent rise of the Tea Party and Modern Conservatism was led by Goldwater. The party has moved far from its early strengths. Now it has progressed to the simplest anti-government and anti-tax stance. Rest assured that the 1% has a”dog in this fight”. We have a Supreme Court that opened the flood gates allowing so much cash to push an agenda that moves the American Dreams of our parents and grandparents further out of reach. The ” stupid ” people are the ones that are being manipulated, not realizing they will be more restricted under a total Rebublican Congress, State Houses , Local Government and Administration.

  25. Reality Check says:

    Sandra, do you actually know anyone who is getting all ths “free stuff”? Or are you just parroting the FAUX line?
    I guess the moeny is coming from the same place that pays for Trump’s military parade, Melania’s “glam room”, all the weekend golf trips, the wall, the expensive furniture for Carlson’s office, the phone booth for Pruitt, Omarosa’s salary, all the attorney;s fees to defend him from investigations, Secret Service protection for Don Jr and Eric, etc.

    As for Hansen, well he is an extreme right winger who does what Coffey tells him to do. Why was he passed over for promotion while in the Navy?

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