Tom Rooney Archives - Florida Politics

Call him ‘Senator’: Joe Gruters wins SD 23, overcomes Olivia Babis

Republican Joe Gruters gets a promotion to state Senate, after defeating Democratic opponent Faith Olivia Babis in Florida Senate District 23.

Gruters led in Sarasota County with 53 percent of the vote over Babis’ 47 percent, with all early and absentee votes and 28 percent of precincts counted.

In the slice of Charlotte County within the Senate district, the Republican led with 60 percent to the Democrat’s 40 percent, with early and absentee counted.

Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota, had been favored to win, but Babis, with the potential to become the first disabled lawmaker in state history, posed a greater threat than many expected at a time when Republicans dealt with both the effects of a national “blue wave” and anger in Southwest Florida over red tide.

And as co-chair of President Donald Trump’s Florida campaign in 2016, Gruters faced some risk of an anti-Trump backlash sticking to his candidacy.

Gruters recently announced he won’t seek re-election as chairman of the county party, so he had a good deal riding on this race. And he raised a good deal of money to hold a strong lead together.

In total, Gruters raised $367,668 to win the open seat. Babis in comparison raised $48,849.

The district before the August primary didn’t appear in play at all to most prognosticators. But in September, Democrats touted a push poll in District 23 that showed Babis up by 3 points among “informed” voters. That poll generally inspired skepticism, but when Republicans didn’t respond with their own polling, it started to raise alarm bells.

In late October, Democratic analyst Matthew Isbell went so far as to adjust the MCI Maps Florida Senate forecast to move District 23 from “Safe GOP” to “Leans GOP.”

Gruters did provide polling results to Florida Politics after that which showed him leading Babis by 9 percent.

That this seat was up for grabs this year came as a surprise to Southwest Florida politicos. State Sen. Greg Steube won election to the seat two years ago and was expected to serve through 2020, but after U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney announced his retirement, Steube resigned to run in Florida’s 17th Congressional District and Gruters ran for Steube’s seat.

Jesse Jackson, Florida lawmakers support ‘crime victims’ bill of rights’

A new round of Florida lawmakers gave their endorsement for Amendment 6 on Tuesday, off the heels of civil-rights legend Jesse Jackson Sr. stating his support for the measure.

The amendment aims to increase rights for crime victims in the state of Florida. It was modeled after “Marsy’s Law.”

Advocates say Amendment 6 will help victims be more informed of the progression of the legal case against the defendant. For instance, victims would be able to give an impact statement during a trial, or would receive notification that an attacker was released from prison.

Critics where it is already law counter that the measure has “increased government costs beyond what they had expected, and police complained it had inhibited their ability to investigate crimes.”

Marsy’s Law for Florida, a group advocating for the amendment’s passage, announced a group of former and current representatives who are voicing their support. They are:

— Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida’s 12th Congressional District

— Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida’s 26th

— Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Florida’s 5th

— Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida’s 17th

— Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida’s 27th

— Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida’s 15th

— Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Florida’s 9th

— Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida’s 3rd

— Former U.S. Rep. and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis

The list of lawmakers join previous officials who have advocated for the amendment’s approval, including state Sens. Lauren Book of Plantation and Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, both Democrats, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, the current mayor of Tallahassee.

Jackson gave a shout-out to Gillum on Twitter for his work on the subject: “Crime victims and their families deserve equal rights,” Jackson wrote.

“If you believe in equal rights, join Mayor Gillum and support Amendment 6 in November!”

“We appreciate the support of these Florida Congressional members who are standing with the people of their districts who have had their lives forever altered by crime,” said Greg Ungru, state director for Marsy’s Law for Florida.

“With their advocacy, we further strengthen our efforts to communicate to voters why Florida needs clear, enforceable rights in our state’s most powerful legal document.”

The group held an early voting rally on Monday featuring state Book and former Miami Heat player Shane Battier to convince voters to support the amendment.

Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Greg Steube hosting first major event since April Freeman’s death

Republican Congressional candidate Greg Steube will host his first major campaign event since the death of Democratic opponent April Freeman.

Steube, a Sarasota state senator running in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, will attend a reception on Oct. 16 at Quail Creek Plantation in Okeechobee.

The event marks a return to campaigning following Freeman’s unexpected death in September. Freeman secured the Democratic nomination in August, the same day Steube won a heated primary over veterans advocate Bill Akins and state Rep. Julio Gonzalez.

But the race altered with Freeman’s passing. Steube immediately released a campaign statement he would suspend campaign operations out of respect.

“My thoughts and prayers are with April Freeman’s family in the wake of her tragic passing,” he said. “I respect her service to our community and admire her commitment to the causes she cared about. Out of respect to her memory, next week’s campaign events will be cancelled.”

Ultimately, events ceased longer than that as Steube had no Democratic opponent.

On Oct. 2, Democrats named Center for Economic and Policy Development CEO Allen Ellison as the replacement nominee for Freeman. Ellison yesterday announced a campaign team, days after the Democrat’s first public reception.

Steube and Ellison expect to meet for the first time at a Tiger Bay candidate forum scheduled for Oct. 18 in Bartow.

Freeman’s name will still appear on the ballot but votes cast for her will count toward Ellison.

Steube’s name, of course, still appears and his votes count for him, and that’s hardly his only advantage in the race. At last report, Steube had nearly $132,000 in cash on hand, while Ellison has yet to report any fundraising.

Retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, an Okeechobee Republican, won this district with 62 percent of the voter over the 34 percent for the Democratic nominee, Freeman. Republican President Donald Trump did almost as well, winning 62 percent of the vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 35 percent.

So the Republican heads back to the field with more than $100,000 at his disposal and plans to raise more, all while facing a Democrat with low name recognition in a deep red district.

Allen Ellison to host first candidate reception in CD 17

Allen Ellison, the Democratic replacement candidate in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, will host his first public event Sunday in Bowling Green.

The newly minted candidate said he’s ready for the reception and a chance to interact with the public.

“I understand that as a representative, I will have to be open-minded and eager to listen to the hearts and minds of our people and be ready to take up their issues and concerns to the floor of Congress,” Ellison told Florida Politics. “I am ready to be their voice.”

Ellison is running against Republican Greg Steube, a Sarasota state Senator, in the heavily conservative district. Steube boasts $132,000 in cash on hand as Ellison starts essentially from scratch.

This week, Democratic leaders from the district chose Ellison as the replacement nominee after the death of April Freeman, who won the Democratic nomination in August.

“It is unfortunate that it played out this way. April was a fighter and a very fierce competitor,” Ellison said. “She fought tirelessly for what she stood for. I also believe strongly in fighting for the issues of our district and they vary by county.”

The new nominee will need financial resources to compete in the expansive district. Freeman made a personal loan to her campaign to finance her bid and that money has been returned to Freeman’s family. It cannot be used to fund Ellison’s campaign.

Ellison’s first reception will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green.

Steube’s campaign has remained silent since Freeman’s death. On the day Freeman’s family announced the news, Steube released a statement saying he would temporarily suspend campaigning.

“My thoughts and prayers are with April Freeman’s family in the wake of her tragic passing,” Steube said. “I respect her service to our community and admire her commitment to the causes she cared about. Out of respect to her memory, next week’s campaign events will be canceled.”

Steube won the Republican primary in August over Charlotte County veteran Bill Akins and state Rep. Julio Gonzalez.

The seat opened this year after the surprise retirement of U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, an Okeechobee Republican. Rooney in 2016 won this district with 62 percent of the vote over Freeman’s 34 percent.

Tributes pour in for congressional candidate April Freeman, who died unexpectedly Sunday

Democratic U.S. House candidate April Freeman died unexpectedly Sunday night, according to her family.

She was running in Florida’s 17th Congressional District.

Freeman’s husband David posted the news Monday on Facebook.

“It’s with great sadness that I feel I must inform all of you that my beloved wife April passed away suddenly last night,” he wrote. “To all of her family and friends here on Facebook, my heart aches with you.”

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo also released a statement on the news.

“April put her heart and soul into her community — and was dedicated to making a better future for all Floridians,” Rizzo said.

“Just last night she was in the office, making calls and working to get out the vote,” she added. “Her work ethic and passion was an inspiration to all of us. It is a tremendous loss to the Democratic Party and to all who knew her.

“Our hearts break for her family and love ones, who are grieving her loss.”

Freeman on Aug. 28 won the Democratic nomination over Bill Pollard.

It’s the second time she’s run in the district. She also ran against incumbent Rep. Tom Rooney in 2016. Rooney this year announced his retirement, and Freeman had hoped for a better shot at victory in the heavily Republican district with an open seat.

“We have a real shot at this,” she said a couple weeks ago. “Two years ago we made Tom Rooney spend $1 million in the last weeks of the campaign and no one has ever done that before.”

In between Congressional runs, Freeman ran for Cape Coral mayor. And in 2014, she ran in Florida’s 19th District after the resignation of Trey Radel.

She previously worked in TV production, including on HBO’s “Hemingway and Gelhorn,” and she ran her own political consulting firm, Freeman & Associates.

Later on Monday, her Republican opponent — state Sen. Greg Steube — said he was cancelling all campaign events next week “out of respect.”

As for the business of the upcoming election, ballots have already been printed out, but state law allows for a replacement nominee.

The Florida Democratic Party in coming days will work with county chairs and executive committees on consideration of any nominees who come forward.

After a nominee in named, election officials will post a note in voting booths and send it with in mail-in-ballots that votes for Freeman will now count for the designated nominee, according to Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner.

JoAnne DeVries, chairman of the Sarasota Democratic Party, said Freeman will be missed. “She was such a sweetie,” DeVries said. “She loved being a candidate even if her health got in the way in the last few months.”

Pollard, whom Freeman beat in the Democratic primary, said: “Although we were contenders for the same nomination, I am saddened. We shared mostly the same political ideals and we a few times talked on the sidelines about them. My condolences go out to her loved ones, especially her husband, David.”

Freeman was 54. WINK News reports she is survived by her husband, two children and two grandchildren.

Other politicians in the region also expressed sadness at the news.

David Holden, Florida’s 19th Congressional District:

David Shapiro, Florida’s 16th Congressional District:

Sean Shaw, Attorney General candidate:

Ruta Jouniari, Sarasota County Commission candidate and former state House candidate:

Erika Lundquist, former Manatee County Commission candidate:

greg steube

Greg Steube reloading campaign funds with Oct. 2 fundraiser in Sarasota

Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube cruised through the Republican primary for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, but now it’s time to refill his war chest for the upcoming general election showdown with Cape Coral Democrat April Freeman.

To that end, Alan Jay Wildstein and Ashley Pierce are hosting a fundraising reception for the 40-year-old Republican’s congressional campaign in Sarasota next month.

The Oct. 2 reception will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., but it’ll take an RSVP to Kelly Dowd via to get an address for the event. The invitation lists a suggested contribution of $1,000 to get in the door.

In the Aug. 28 primary election, Steube garnered more than 60 percent of the vote while Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez was the pick for 18 percent of Republican voters, putting him in third place behind lesser-known candidate Bill Akins, who received 19 percent of the vote.

Gonzalez blamed his resounding defeat on several oppo dumps by the Steube campaign, including unearthing some “Never Trump” comments made by Gonzalez during U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s doomed presidential campaign in 2016.

“My character was assassinated,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really sad that tonight deceit and lies prevailed in the political discourse.”

On the Democratic side, Freeman scored a 77-23 victory over Bill Pollard though she faces much steeper odds in the general election for CD 17, an expansive and solidly Republican seat where President Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton 62-35 two years ago.

When it comes to fundraising, Steube had raised more than $525,000 for his campaign account and had about $132,000 banked as of Aug. 8. Steube has also been the beneficiary of a load of spending by outside groups. In July, Club for Growth Action and Liberty and Leadership Fund said they had $627,000 banked to boost Steube’s congressional bid and that they had already put $400,000 of that cash behind broadcast and cable ads.

Freeman, meanwhile, had raised just $28,265 and had $4,283 left to spend through the same date.

CD 17 is open this year thanks to current GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s decision to not seek re-election this year. The district sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties.

Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections. Freeman was also the Democratic nominee two years ago when Rooney won re-election with 62 percent of the vote.

Election Day is Nov. 6. The fundraiser invitation is below.

greg steube

Greg Steube wins Republican nomination by a landslide in CD17

State Sen. Greg Stuebe emerged victorious from a hard-fought Republican primary in Florida’s 17th Congressional District. With most precincts reporting, Steube had 62 percent of the vote compared to Charlotte County veteran Bill Akins‘s 19 percent and state Rep. Julio Gonzalez’s 18 percent.

Steube had been backed by conservative groups like the National Rifle Association and Club for Growth, which issued a congratulatory statement. “Club for Growth’s PACs were proud to play a role in Greg Steube’s victory tonight,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh said.

“As a state legislator, Greg was a staunch pro-growth conservative who wasn’t afraid of taking on both parties, and his courage and principle will serve him well in Washington. We fully expect Greg to be a leader in Congress in the fight for economic freedom.”

The Republican contest pitted against one another former allies who represented the Sarasota area in the Florida Legislature. For most of the election season, the race felt like a clash between Steube and Gonzalez, and Gonzalez raised far more money than Akins despite performing poorly in late-reporting, largely rural portions of the district.

Steube now heads for a general election battle with Democrat April Freeman, the 2016 Democratic nominee as well, who won a primary contest against opponent Bill Pollard Tuesday night with 77 percent of the vote.

But in a district where President Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 27 percentage points, the Republican battle has been the high-stakes contest in the region.

The Republican contest became one of the more closely watched primaries in the state after U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney in March announced his retirement.

Steube, a Sarasota Republican elected to the state Senate in 2016, previously served six years in the Florida House. In that time, he developed a reputation as one of the strongest advocates for gun rights in Tallahassee, advocating for concealed carry permit holders to be allowed to bring weapons into gun-free businesses and even courthouses.

Akins entered the race first, intending to challenge Rooney in the primary. Through the race, he delivered especially hard critiques of Steube, questioning his combat record and raising the fact Steube still does not live in the 17th.

Gonzalez, a Venice physician by trade who also holds a law degree, has served in the state House since 2010, where he has focused on health care policy as he bolstered his social conservative credentials. He admitted feeling bruised and uncertain if he had any political future after the difficult contest.

“My character was assassinated,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really sad that tonight deceit and lies prevailed in the political discourse.”

That’s not the only mud thrown in the race. Gonzalez criticized Steube for his Congressional lobbying work with Becker and Poliakoff, which represents Sarasota County as a client.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez saw details of a malpractice lawsuit turn into newspaper headlines. Steube also highlighted a cadre of “Never Trump” comments made by Gonzalez during U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s doomed presidential campaign in 2016.

Greg Steube

Greg Steube adds $126K, Julio Gonzalez $45K in CD 17 Republican primary

Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube filed another six-figure fundraising report ahead of the primary election for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, bringing his to-date fundraising total past the $500,000 mark.

From the start of last month through Aug. 8, Steube’s campaign account received $126,636 in contributions, including $104,136 from individual donors and another $22,500 from political committees. Notable among those contributions were a pair of $2,000 checks from Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one from his congressional campaign committee and another earmarked by him from the House Freedom Fund PAC.

The spending tally for the five-week reporting period came in at $ 306,694. Nearly half of that total — $148,223 — was spent on direct mail campaigns and postage through Political Ink, a Washington-based firm that creates mailers for Republican campaigns and causes.

Another $102,826 was spent on online advertising through Tallahassee-based Strategic Digital Services, with other major expenditures including a $22,000 payment for polling from Public Opinion Strategies, $5,000 for consulting from O’Donnell & Associates, $3,900 for video work, $2,000 for accounting work and a host of other charges covering credit card fees, campaign signage and website support.

Including a $15,000 loan to jumpstart his run, Steube has now raised $527,375 for his campaign and had $131,941 in the bank on Aug. 8. His campaign touted the fundraising numbers in a email sent out to supporters Thursday afternoon.

“I am pleased with not only the funds we have been able to raise, but with the wide-ranging sources of support behind this campaign,” said Steube. “The financial backing of the local community as well as the nation’s leading conservative organizations show that our conservative vision for Congress is resonating.”

The campaign also noted the massive amount of independent expenditures being made in support of his bid, citing the prior announcement of a six-figure ad buy from Club for Growth Action and the Liberty and Leadership Fund, which had raised $627,000 on Steube’s behalf through the end of June.

Steube is running against Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez and lesser-known candidate Greg Akins in the Republican primary for CD 17, which is open this cycle due to the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

Gonzalez, for his part, brought in just shy of $45,000 in outside money during the five-week stretch while shelling out $278,145, including a repayment for $30,000 of the loans Gonzalez used to juice his campaign in Q1.

Most of Gonzalez’ other spending was funneled through San Diego-based ROE Strategic, which took in nearly $150,000 for a wide range of services, including accounting, consulting, direct mail, signage and other advertising. Washington-based FP1 Strategies was paid nearly $30,000 to make a campaign video, while Tallahassee-based Forward Strategies received $15,000 for “contract services.”

As of Aug. 8, Gonzalez’ overall fundraising total was $366,713, not including $120,000 in outstanding candidate loans, and he had $115,288 in the bank.

Steube has been on the offensive during the past several weeks of the campaign.

In mid-July, the Steube campaign painted Gonzalez as a “Never Trump” Republican by highlighting tweets he made about then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 — Gonzalez supported U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the presidential primary two years ago and has since earned his endorsement for Congress.

Another volley came earlier this week, when Team Steube lambasted Gonzalez over a campaign ad that insinuated he had the endorsement of Gov. Rick Scott, something Scott campaign manager Jackie Schultz plainly stated was not true.

The hits kept coming, too, with the release of a new poll on Wednesday — commissioned by the pro-Steube Club for Growth Action — showing the Sarasota lawmaker with a 39-16 percent lead over Gonzalez in the primary race, with 5 percent going for Akins and 40 percent undecided.

Akins, Gonzalez and Steube will duke it out in the Aug. 28 primary election, with the winner moving on to face the winner of the Democratic primary between April Freeman and Bill Pollard.

CD 17 is a safe Republican seat that sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections. In 2016, with Freeman as the Democratic nominee, Rooney won re-election with 62 percent of the vote.

Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Greg Steube leads Julio Gonzalez by 23 points in new CD 17 poll

Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube holds a commanding lead in the Republican primary for Florida’s 17th Congressional District according to a new poll commissioned by Club for Growth Action, which is backing Steube in the contest.

The poll, conducted by WPA Intelligence, found the first-term state Senator with a 39-16 percent lead over Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez, with 5 percent favoring Charlotte County activist Bill Akins and 40 percent undecided.

The survey also measured name ID for Steube and Gonzalez, and found the former was known by nearly four-fifths of voters in the district and was seen favorably by a margin of 41-17 with the remainder not offering their opinion. About three-quarters of voters were familiar with Gonzalez, an improvement of 28 points since July 16, but his favorability has risen along his recognition. He was underwater 19-33 in favorability.

WPAi included crosstabs on how informed voters were leaning. Among Republicans who had heard of both lawmakers, Steube’s lead expanded to 46-19 percent, while Republicans who offered their opinion on both candidates preferred Steube by an even larger 54-25 percent margin. Akins didn’t cross 5 percent in either measure.

The Steube campaign touted the results in a Wednesday email, saying they showed he was “dominating the field” and highlighting some other recent successes.

“These results follow two recent straw poll victories for Greg Steube, including a win at the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Political Hob Nob and an overwhelming 44-point victory at the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce that saw Steube garner 63 percent of the vote,” the campaign said in an email.

Steube and Gonzalez are competing for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election in the fall.

Gonzalez held a cash lead at the end of the first quarter, though Steube flew by him in the months that followed, raising more than $400,000 in hard dollars while Club for Growth and another outside group, Liberty and Leadership Fund, announced raising more than $1 million in support of his campaign.

In July alone, outside groups spent nearly $1 million in CD 17 with most of that cash pushing either a pro-Steube or anti-Gonzalez message.

The primary season has also seen a couple of stinging hits on Gonzalez.

The first uncovered some 2016 tweets where he expressed some negative opinions of then-candidate Trump — Gonzalez supported U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 presidential race and has earned his endorsement for Congress this year.

The second, which came this week, hits Gonzalez over a campaign ad that insinuates that Gov. Rick Scott has endorsed him, something Scott campaign manager Jackie Schultz plainly stated was not true. Depending on the language of the ad, that misrepresentation could be a violation of state elections law.

Steube launched his campaign with dozens of backers already in tow, and has since added an official thumbs up from the National Realtors PAC and several conservative groups, including the National Rifle Association. Gonzalez landed a major coup with an endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but has fewer orgs backing up his bid.

CD 17 is a safe Republican seat that sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

The WPAi poll conducted 300 live telephone interviews (30 percent cell phone) of likely Republican primary voters on Aug. 8-9. Respondents were selected at random from the Florida voter file using Proportionate Probability Sampling based on turnout probability scores for each voter. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.

The poll is below.

WPAi poll of the FL CD 17 Republican primary by Andrew Wilson on Scribd

Greg Steube hits Julio Gonzalez for touting non-existent Rick Scott endorsement

Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez has been pushing an online ad backing up his campaign for Florida’s 17th Congressional District that features Gov. Rick Scott praising the Republican lawmaker and insinuating Gonzalez is his pick in the primary race to fill the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

According to an article by Brenden Farrington the Associated Press, the 30-second spot features the term-limited Governor making some effusive remarks about Gonzalez, and ends with an announcer saying Scott “stands with” Gonzalez, and asks voters to “Join Governor Scott in support of pro-Trump, tax-cutting conservative Dr. Julio Gonzalez.”

Short of a nod from President Donald Trump, the official backing of Scott would be the biggest coup a Republican congressional candidate could hope for. The problem: It’s not true.

Those clips were from a fundraiser benefitting Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign, and while Scott is likely appreciative of Gonzalez’ support in his quest to oust Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, he hasn’t weighed in on the Republican primary for CD 17.

If it weren’t clear enough by the lack of endorsement-style language, the bottom of that AP article puts to rest any lingering doubts: “Scott’s campaign manager, Jackie Schultz, said Scott hasn’t endorsed in the race.”

Gonzalez’ chief rival in the Republican primary for CD 17, Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube, seized on the misrepresentation in a Tuesday campaign email hammering Gonzalez

“Julio Gonzalez, candidate for Congress, has been falsely touting the support of Governor Rick Scott in an effort to boost his failing campaign,” the email read, citing the AP report.

“Last week, Gonzalez sent an email to supporters calling on them to ‘Join Governor Rick Scott in supporting Dr. Julio Gonzalez.’ His campaign then released a short video with footage from a recent rally for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign. As of August 13, the video is being promoted online by the Gonzalez campaign.”

Similar to the recent drama in the race for House District 62, Gonzalez may be violating state elections laws depending on the language and images he used. In the HD 62 case, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor chastised School Board member Susan Valdes for using her picture in a campaign mailer that insinuated the congresswoman had endorsed Valdes, and went even further by alleging the act was a violation of Chapter 106.143(4) of the Florida Statutes.

Team Steube is doing the same in regards to Gonzalez’ ad.

The statute reads as follows: “It is unlawful for any candidate or person on behalf of a candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate, unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.”

A violation of that rule can result in civil fees.

“This is the latest attempt to mislead the voters from a campaign that is desperately trying to revive itself,” said Alex Blair, Steube’s campaign manager. “First, they tried to dismiss Gonzalez’s Never Trump past, and now they are trying to mislead voters about Governor Scott’s support. I think the voters will see past the deceit and will support Greg Steube’s positive, pro-Trump, conservative vision for Congress.”

Gonzalez and Steube will be on the Aug. 28 primary ballot alongside little-known Republican Greg Akins. The winner of the GOP nomination will go up against the Democratic nominee — either April Freeman or Bill Pollard — in the Nov. 6 general election, though the Republican candidate will be the odds on favorite come Election Day.

CD 17 is a safe Republican seat that sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Rooney has held the seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

In 2016, Rooney won re-election over his Democratic challenger with 62 percent of the vote and Trump earned the same share of the vote at the top of the ticket.

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