In a statement exclusive to Florida Politics, Democratic congressional candidate David Shapiro says he won’t support Nancy Pelosi as leader of the Democratic Caucus should he win in November.
That comes after Republican Vern Buchanan, the 16th Congressional District incumbent, came out with a new ad hitting Shapiro as a “puppet” of Pelosi, the U.S. House Minority Leader.
The 30-second ad, titled “Pelosi’s Puppet,” blasts Shapiro over support he’s earned from the Democratic establishment, as well as his history working as an attorney.
“Meet Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked puppet, David Shapiro, a personal injury lawyer who’s made millions suing people: veterans, businesses, even elderly women,” the ad’s narrator says.
“And when it comes to taxes, he failed to pay his own on time, but wants to raise yours. Shapiro opposed a tax cut that saved Floridians thousands. A vote for Shapiro is a vote for Nancy Pelosi.”
The ad is set to air in Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties at a starting buy of $500,000.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune did report Shapiro “was recruited to run for the District 16 seat by Democratic leaders in Southwest Florida and Washington D.C.” However, it’s not clear whether Pelosi played a role in that recruitment.
Now, Shapiro is going so far as to say he’ll vote for someone else to lead House Democrats in 2019.
“Politicians in Washington have failed when it comes to protecting Florida families, and that’s why I’m calling for new leadership on both sides of the aisle,” Shapiro said.
“A vote for me is a vote for replacing Vern Buchanan and Nancy Pelosi.”
Shapiro joins a long list of Democrats already on record as demanding new leadership. Pelosi has led the party’s caucus since all the way back in 2003, and became the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House in 2007.
Max Goodman, Buchanan’s campaign manager, wasn’t too keen on Shapiro’s newfound public opposition to Pelosi.
“Shapiro just pushed the panic button as he frantically tries to separate himself from Nancy Pelosi,” Goodman said.
“He can squirm all he wants but his long history of saying one thing publicly but doing another privately shows he can’t be trusted.”
This is a new stance from Shapiro, who previously would not commit to supporting or opposing Pelosi as Speaker. At a meeting with Sarasota business leaders on May 7, Shapiro was asked whether he would vote for Pelosi to lead the Democrats.
“If I get into the House and there’s what I believe to be someone who would be more moderate and younger, because we need new people, new blood because what’s going on there, I would support that person,” Shapiro says.
“The only problem with that question is I have no idea who would be running against her. So I wouldn’t want to put someone who I think would do more harm than good.”
While Shapiro did say then he’d be open to a new Speaker, he hesitated due to the lack of confirmed candidates opposing Pelosi. As of yet, it’s still not clear who the potential challengers might be.
“What’s changed?,” asked Goodman.
Goodman also says whether Shapiro supports Pelosi or not, his record should keep him from winning on Nov. 6.
“We are not going to let Sneaky Shapiro’s dark money group come into our district and falsely attack Vern without paying a price,” Goodman added.
“We are going to hold Shapiro accountable and make sure the voters know the truth about his record, including his 30-year career suing the same folks he now wants to represent in Congress.”
“Shapiro’s dark money group, Floridians for a Fair Shake, has spent $1 million in negative advertising attacking Buchanan over the last three months, an unprecedented amount spent by an outside group in Southwest Florida,” read an additional statement from the Buchanan campaign.
Buchanan’s camp has repeatedly referred to Floridians for a Fair Shake as “Shapiro’s dark money group,” after the organization went after Buchanan over his purchase of a yacht on the same day Republicans passed the first version of their tax cut bill.
Floridians for a Fair Shake has previously said there’s no connection between their group and the Shapiro campaign.
His decision to distance himself from Pelosi may help his odds in a GOP-favored district. But he still has a ways to go to close the gap completely.