Mary Thomas‘ campaign came out swinging against Neal Dunn Monday, alleging links between the Panama City urologist and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
In a memo addressed to reporters, Thomas claimed Dunn has a “Bill Nelson” problem, citing Dunn’s past support for Florida’s senior senator. According to a federal campaign finance filing, Dunn contributed to Nelson’s 2012 re-election campaign against former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV.
Mack himself has even chimed in, tweeting the following back in August 2015:
“Is Neil Dunn [sic] running in the Democrat primary? He supported liberal Bill Nelson and lobbied for expanding Obamacare coverage,” wrote Mack, who was trounced by Nelson by about 13 percent of the vote, 55-42.
Thomas and Dunn are squaring off against former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia in a heated North Florida Republican primary to replace U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who is leaving her 2nd Congressional District seat after a 2014 redistricting decision led to radical changes to its political composition.
CD 2 now among the state’s most conservative seats, with experts saying it favors Republicans by 20 points or more. That means any candidate’s hint of a liberal streak could jeopardize their standing with the rock-ribbed electorate there.
Thomas has gone on the attack against Dunn in the past, aggressively going after Dunn — once the presumptive frontrunner, endorsed by top Florida GOP brass — in a Bay County debate in March.
Thomas drew boos from some in the crowd by inveighing against Dunn early and often as a supposed “liberal” and one-time lobbyist for the Florida Medical Association.
“Neal, you can’t hide your liberal record,” said Thomas. “You served as a registered lobbyist, and these are the documented facts. You advocated for Obamacare in Florida, and you said you did not support Obamacare’s immediate repeal.”
Dunn, for his part, played down the charges and did not return fire. Instead, he chose to claim the moral high road and preached unity among GOP-ers.
“At the end of the day we need solutions, not just positions,” said Dunn in his closing remark. “I’m not going up [to Congress] the make a grandstand. I want to work toward solutions.”
The Republican field in CD 2 shrank last week when Ft. White businessman Jeff Moran dropped his bid and backed Sukhia, a social conservative who, like Thomas, is from Tallahassee.
Democrats Steve Crapps and Walter Dartland are also in the running to succeed Graham, though they face long odds in the deep-red district.