By Wes Wolfe, Florida Politics

A new website went live recently detailing Nassau County Commissioner Aaron Bell’s arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence in June. Everything on the site is public record, available through the Nassau County Clerk of Court. However, Bell avoided such a direct attack on himself in his District 2 re-election campaign up to this point.

The site, aaronbelldui.com, loads with dramatic text offset by Bell’s DUI mugshot, in which he’s smiling. It was registered with GoDaddy on Aug. 9.

The site has his name in large tan letters and reads in all caps, “Arrested for DUI: June. County Commission Candidate: August. Unfit: Everyday.” It has embedded in it bodycam footage from the arresting Fernandina Police officer, along with the redacted incident report and some local news stories. Text on the bottom of the page reads, in all caps, “Bad judgment. Unfit to serve. Aaron Bell cannot be trusted in the streets or in leadership.”

Voters Response is the responsible party for the website. The group is one of many pseudo-anonymous organizations with a South Monroe Street, Tallahassee address. Its last contribution was October 2020 and its last expenditure was November 2020, until it received $7,000 from Voters for Economic Growth on Aug. 1. Voters Response turned around and spent $4,500 with Power Strategies of Tallahassee and nearly $2,250 with Top Lobster LLC of Bradenton the same day.

Voters for Economic Growth’s only contribution since Bell’s arrest June 21 was $80,000 from Florida Opinion Leaders, a Chamber of Commerce-related political committee, on July 22. The last contribution before that was $58,000 from Citizens for Principled Leadership on June 14. Citizens for Principled Leadership had two large contributions before they gave their own — $101,250 from the Conservative Leadership Committee, which doesn’t seem to be in the Florida Secretary of State’s committee database, and $20,000 from the Committee for Justice, Transportation and Business, another chamber-related committee.

Bell resigned his chairmanship of the Board of County Commissioners at its next meeting after his arrest.

“As I’m sure you’re all aware, last week I was accused of operating my personal vehicle while under the influence, and I went through the arrest and booking process for those accusations,” Bell said at the outset of the meeting.

“I will be responding to those claims completely through the legal process. I feel that any discussion of this matter during the current meeting or other subsequent meetings, would only serve to distract from the important work of this board. For this reason, effective immediately, I am abstaining from any further action as chairman of both the Board of County Commissioners and the (Amelia Island) Tourist Development Council for the remainder of my term as chairman.”

Navy veteran and locally known entertainer Hupp Huppmann drew a distinction with Bell’s combative posture toward development when he launched his own campaign for the open Republican primary in County Commission District 2.

Huppmann is a previous general manager of The Palace Saloon, owns and operates entertainment services company HUPP LLC, and was a part of the Foar From Home cross-ocean rowing effort raising money to combat veteran suicide.

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PATRICIA BUX
PATRICIA BUX(@crbux)
3 months ago

This is the height of negative campaigning. There isn’t even a place on that page to respond to the group responsible for the post. And I doubt you should have published this in your Fernandina Observer blog. Yes- the DUI is public. Done.

Sherry Harrell
Sherry Harrell (@guest_65911)
3 months ago
Reply to  PATRICIA BUX

Patricia, Some people aren’t aware that Bell was arrested for the DUI. That in itself was bad, but it was the fact that he tried to use his wife’s name, as a Prosecutor, to get the cop to take him home instead of arrest him. We already live in a country with a two-tiered justice system and we certainly don’t want our county to operate in that fashion.

Lyn Pannone
Lyn Pannone(@lyn-pannone)
3 months ago
Reply to  Sherry Harrell

Do your research people. Others in the race also have a record. Seriously, don’t assume his opponent has nothing in his background.

Hupp Huppmann
Hupp Huppmann (@guest_65925)
3 months ago
Reply to  Lyn Pannone

People are well aware of my background. It’s a well known event and often discussed by me in public since it happened 16 years ago. Do your research Mrs. Pannone.

Getting drugged (GHB) in a drink at while at work as The General Manager of the Palace Saloon is far cry from my opponents recent legal issues. In fact, I’m grateful to the FBPD for keeping me safe that night. It could have turned out much worse.

Please feel free to give me a call if you would like to discuss it further so you have all the facts.

Jacek
Jacek (@guest_65930)
3 months ago
Reply to  Hupp Huppmann

Mr. Huppmann, as a registered voter, I would like to know the following:
Do you condone whoever is behind this website? I assume you or campaign had nothing to do with theses people. Please clarify.
If elected, would you vote yes to allow developers of the 50 acres Amelia Island site to build as per old zoning regulations, not the currently adopted change in building height?
Looking forward to your reply.

Hupp Huppmann
Hupp Huppmann (@guest_65939)
3 months ago
Reply to  Jacek

I absolutely and unequivocally DENOUNCE this mailer. It is disgusting and anyone who knows me, knows I have no connection this nonsense whatsoever. It’s disgraceful.

Beyond, that – I think the BOCC is correct to stand by the ‘45 foot ordinance. It’s the law, stand by it.

Darryl Ford
Darryl Ford (@guest_65948)
3 months ago
Reply to  Lyn Pannone

Your comment denigrating a good and honest man like Mr. Huppman disgusts me. Your comment serves to not only condemn your low character but the character of Mr. Bell as his supporter. Mr. Bell did what he did, with the clear video evidence there is not much to dispute. I do not know what was worse his juvenile smiling mugshot or pathetic attempt to use his wife’s position to get out of the DUI, right after driving his daughter in the condition he was in. There is no room in this county for your style of classless politicking Ms. Pannone, I hope this attempted smear of Mr. Huppman only convinces more of us to vote for him

Darryl Ford
Darryl Ford (@guest_65951)
3 months ago
Reply to  Lyn Pannone

A.M. “Hupp” Huppmann (R)13,301
63%
Aaron Bell (R)7,942
37%

Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery (@guest_65952)
3 months ago
Reply to  Darryl Ford

Daryl…….Everybody likes Hupp. His reputation will now stand on what he does going forward. What got my attention was the nasty and vile anonymous folks behind the Bell smear campaign (the likes of which I have never seen around here). Someone went to extraordinary lengths to ensure Bell was not re-elected……..and I guess we’ll find out why in the months ahead.
On a positive note, a Yes voter for the Riverstone project (Ford) also lost his bid for re-election.

Darryl Ford
Darryl Ford (@guest_65954)
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mowery

Understood

PATRICIA MILLER BUX
PATRICIA MILLER BUX(@crbux)
3 months ago
Reply to  Sherry Harrell

Let’s keep this civil!!!!! And that means keeping the newspapers out of running slanted ads. I seriously doubt Mr. Huppermann is behind this. It’s deeper and I just hate to see it all right out in front.

Dana Zielinski
Dana Zielinski (@guest_65918)
3 months ago
Reply to  PATRICIA BUX

I support Aaron Bell on the basis of his voting record regarding growth on Amelia Island

bob
bob (@guest_65907)
3 months ago

I’ve also seen attack advertising of other candidates, and frankly, it makes me a little sad to see that we’ve become much like the big-city politicians. These all may be facts, yet I still yearn for a civil discourse. Maybe I am naïve.

Chris Kirwan
Chris Kirwan (@guest_65908)
3 months ago

It’s nice to see good investigative journalism. Too often our local press just publishes the press release. Thank you!

Dana Zielinski
Dana Zielinski (@guest_65910)
3 months ago

I intend to vote for Aaron Bell based on his voting record to control growth on the island.

Dana Zielinski
Dana Zielinski (@guest_65912)
3 months ago

I intend to vote for Aaron Bell due to his voting record to control growth on the island.

Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery (@guest_65913)
3 months ago

Somebody wants Bell out very badly…….what group would that be?????

Betsie
Betsie (@guest_65916)
3 months ago

Always follow the money. Ask yourselves who is donating the actual money for what is being distributed in campaign materials by Voters Response. Why they are inserting themselves in a local county election from behind a wall of secrecy in Tallahassee?
The truth is out there. The folks at Voters Response and other similar organizations are counting on the fact you will not do a deeper dive.

Collin Fordham
Collin Fordham (@guest_65927)
3 months ago
Reply to  Betsie

Since you seem to know Betsie, why don’t you tell us? Should we also research where Mr. Bell’s funding is coming from? If you are “tough on developers”, you don’t get endorsed by the Jacksonville Builders Association

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_65935)
3 months ago
Reply to  Collin Fordham

Collin – Do, please. The public interest is in transparancy.

John Whitlow
John Whitlow (@guest_65929)
3 months ago
Reply to  Betsie

You are 100% correct.

PATRICIA MILLER BUX
PATRICIA MILLER BUX(@crbux)
3 months ago
Reply to  Betsie

I did see that it was done by Voters Response from Tallahassee. Why, right? awful.

Candis Whitney
Candis Whitney (@guest_65919)
3 months ago

Wes Wolfe, Thanks for explaining the complicated path of such an atrocious, dirty attack.
Aaron Bell has worked hard for the people of Nassau county, and has my total support.

Jacuqelin Osborne
Jacuqelin Osborne (@guest_65921)
3 months ago

Dirty politics is not welcome nor reflective of how Nassau County feels and votes.

Margo Story
Margo Story (@guest_65922)
3 months ago

That was really low whoever posted that video….shame shame shame!!

Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery (@guest_65926)
3 months ago

What group could possibly be behind this? Who did Bell get on the wrong side of? Who could possibly benefit (and I’m not talking about Hupp)?

PATRICIA MILLER BUX
PATRICIA MILLER BUX(@crbux)
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mowery

I agree!

Bill Fold
Bill Fold (@guest_65928)
3 months ago

It should be obvious who’s behind the mudslinging. Bell may object to overdevelopment but at least one of his supporters is betting he’s not. I have it on good authority Huppman’s desire is to preserve what’s left of Nassau County’s beauty and natural resources as we remember them from years gone by. Mr. Huppman isn’t a politician and is not in this as a means to increase his bank account balance like most politicians do.
As far as the alleged DUI against Bell, the truth will come out. Vote your conscience for the candidates. That way you can only blame yourself.

Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery (@guest_65936)
3 months ago

Everybody needs to vote by Tuesday…..this Primary is the final determination.

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