A Bradenton City Council candidate had what he said is a now-deleted social media account that featured sexually charged posts, degrading comments about women and other offensive content.
Eleuterio “Junior” Salazar acknowledged the postings, but he says they were made by someone else who had control of Salazar’s cell phone.
Salazar, 32, is running in the November 2020 election for the Ward 5 seat on the city council. The seat is currently held by Harold Byrd Jr., who has said he will not seek re-election. There are currently no other candidates.
In 2016, Salazar qualified as the youngest and first Latino candidate for mayor of Bradenton but lost to incumbent Wayne Poston. Salazar then ran for the Ward 4 seat for the 2018 election, but he later withdrew from the race.
Now that he’s back in the ring for 2020, some of his past social media posts have been called into question.
Salazar acknowledged the posts were made and said he is not surprised they surfaced, calling it a political stunt.
“The account was hacked and that one has been since permanently removed from Facebook,” Salazar said.
Screenshots of dozens of posts that appear to be from one of Salazar’s accounts, were sent to the Bradenton Herald. A review of the profile by the Bradenton Herald did not reveal the same posts, which could have been deleted. But the profile pictures appear to match those in the screenshots.
However, additional questionable posts were found.
Many posts stemmed from an abusive relationship in the past two years, “where there were times my phone was taken away and things were posted,” Salazar said.
“My phone kept getting out of my possession and I wasn’t able to control a lot of it,” Salazar said.
In May of 2018, Manatee County sheriff’s deputies went to Salazar’s home after a report of a fight between Salazar and another man. According to the deputy’s report, Salazar said he and the man got into an argument and the man shoved him and put him in a headlock before they were separated. Salazar suffered minor injuries.
The other man was taken to jail on a charge of domestic battery.
Manatee County court records indicate Salazar was also divorced in 2013.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Bradenton Herald identified four accounts with Salazar’s name and photo on Facebook.
Some of the screenshots sent to the Bradenton Herald include text posts, while others are shared images or posts. The posts included misogynistic references to sex. There also were references to drugs and alcohol.
- “Ok I’m out on the prowl tonight so if I act a fool or become a hoe, minda [sic] business!!!”
- “I have a great idea to get rid of red tide. ... Y’all ready?! So, everyone who voted for Trump should get naked walk into the water and open their mouth. Eventually we will drain the swamp.”
- “So let me get this right ... y’all got money for sombreros but askin [sic] for free school supplies?!”
- “What kind of drunk are you? Sadly, I’m a crier or super sexually aggressive #dontjudgeme”
- “These drugs with the left over alcohol from last night is (smiling hugging emoji)“
The Bradenton Herald found posts on other accounts with Salazar’s name that said:
- “Stay tuned for the next season of: BHHS (Bald Headed Hoe [expletive]) okurrrrrrt”
- “I must admit... I like dem [sic] freaky girls!”
Salazar posted profile pictures with a filter in June that said “Love is love, Happy Pride Month.” Some of the screenshots provided to the Herald included graphic homophobic language.
In a Sept. 12, 2016, Facebook post that was one of many sent to the Herald, a status on an account with Salazar’s name and photo read: “In April I decided to move into the ‘hood’ or the less fortunate side of town because I really wanted a feel for my city. But boy let me tell you I can’t get used to this lol.”
This was around the time he ran for mayor. Salazar filed in December 2015, and the election was held November 2016.
Salazar said he wrote and posted an apology for some posts.
A May 30, 2019 post read: “PSA: First and foremost, please do not take the message as an excuse but more so as me owning my actions. Through the past 12-18 months I’ve been through so much in life that you prob [sic] wouldn’t believe. However, some may have seen some posts on Facebook that were not a good reflection of my character. Many of these were posts that were re-shared but still not a good reflection of who I am and who I want to be. So let me be the first to apologize to anyone who might have been offended, disappointed or felt any other way upon seeing the posts. The old Facebook that no longer exists is the old me who I am not proud of at times. We’re all human and we all make mistakes, some more than others but we still make them. I hope to bring joy and inspiration to a Facebook near you in the coming future.”
“Some of those things were not representative of me at all and some were misconstrued kind of things,” Salazar told the Herald.
When asked what was misconstrued, Salazar said, “If there was a post I re-posted. Meaning, they took it as if it was coming directly from me as if that’s how I felt. It doesn’t mean I feel that way, it’s just a re-share.”
Shaun Lehoe, Salazar’s campaign manager and long-time friend, said Salazar was going through a bad relationship and a lot of things got posted, but that’s why he’s since apologized and deleted the account. He acknowledged some of the posts were “very much out of line,” but believes that shouldn’t outweigh what his friend has done for the community.
“Facebook is an outlet for people to be able to share their personal life ... and this was a personal page,” Lehoe said. “Everything becomes fair game. ... It’s just part of it and it’s part of it and part of knowing that he’s not someone who’s fake. He’s just another human being that makes mistakes.”
“I created ownership to realize that sometimes you need a wake up call and after everything I experienced in life, PTSD and other issues, you finally get that wake up call,” Salazar said.
Despite the surfacing of the controversial posts, Salazar said he looks forward to being on the campaign trail.
“People in the community know who I am and they know the real Junior. They know who I am and how I got here,” Salazar said.
Salazar discusses mental health history
In a post dated July 2, 201,7 in a screenshot, Salazar wrote about a June 7, 2017, incident where he was admitted to Manatee Memorial Hospital. Because he was having thoughts of suicide and harming others, doctors committed him under the Baker Act. He was taken to a local behavioral health clinic for five days, according to the post.
The post went on to add: “I share this story because it is important that we begin discussing mental health in an open forum. We cannot keep sweeping this under the carpet as if these issues don’t exist.”
Salazar’s father died from suicide when Salazar was a child.
“Mental health is stigmatized enough instead of being discussed openly as the medical condition it is. I find it interesting that my mental health is newsworthy yet no posts about my near cancer scare are. This incident was precipitated by a robbery at gunpoint. A very traumatic event that is also apparently not newsworthy. I will no longer relive these past incidents at the pleasure of those who fear my campaign. I am focused on bringing change to Ward 5,” Salazar wrote in an email to the Bradenton Herald.
“I agree with him 100 percent,” Lehoe said, who added he was there for Salazar during the hospitalization. “That’s a big part of our platform is mental health.”
Lehoe added it’s better that Salazar put the information out there than try to hide it.
“Unfortunately we live in a society that likes to stigmatize mental health,” Lehoe said.
Salvation Army disputes claim
A LinkedIn page bearing his name and photo also states Salazar is a member of the board of directors for the Salvation Army in Manatee County. Salazar said he has been a member of the board since May after an invitation from the chairman and attended an event while the board was in session.
However, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army, Kelly French, said Salazar is not a member of the board.
“He expressed interest earlier this year, and nothing ever came to fruition after that,” French said.
Salvation Army board chairman Chris Williams also stated Salazar is not officially a member of the board and will not be.