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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 Kelly@ElectGregSteube.com 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.

Tom Rooney applies for county judgeship in Palm Beach

Once U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney wraps up his final term in Washington, he may have a spot waiting on the bench instead.

The Palm Beach County Bar Association reports Rooney among the list of applicants for a county court vacancy created by Dana Santino’s removal from the bench in July.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a while, trying to prepare for life after Congress,” Rooney told Sunshine State News. “And then a few weeks ago this vacancy came up.”

The Okeechobee Republican surprised the political world in February when he announced he would not seek re-election in Florida’s 17th Congressional District.

Interestingly, his nine-county district no longer includes any part of Palm Beach County, but Rooney told Sunshine State News that he and his family rent a place in Palm Beach Gardens, and he will buy a home in Palm Beach County as soon as he sells a house in Washington, D.C.

Rooney graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 1999 and remains a member in good standing with the Florida Bar.

Rooney and 31 other applicants for the county post will interview with the Judicial Nominating Commission on Aug. 27. Rooney has been assigned a 10-minute time frame shortly after 1:30 p.m. to make his case.

The commission will then send a list of up to six names for consideration, and Gov. Rick Scott will appoint one to the bench.

The judge seat opened up after Santino was removed from the bench by the Florida Supreme Court for violating judicial canons during her 2016 campaign for office, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Rooney was first elected to the U.S. House in 2008, when he beat Democratic incumbent Tim Mahoney. Since then, he’s comfortably won re-election in the expansive district.

Rooney’s heavily Republican Congressional district is expected to stay in Republican hands.

Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Outside money pours into CD 17 Republican primary between Julio Gonzalez, Greg Steube

The race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney in Florida’s 17th Congressional District is heating up.

In July alone, outside groups spent nearly $1 million boosting state Sen. Greg Steube and besieging state Rep. Julio Gonzalez, the two leading Republicans vying for the expansive and solidly Republican congressional district.

Most of that cash — $569,052 as of July 31 — has paid for messaging touting Steube, a Sarasota Republican who entered the race within days of Rooney’s announcement that he wouldn’t run for re-election in the fall.

Club for Growth Action is responsible for more than $500,000 of that spending, including a $432,000 TV buy placed on July 20. The Liberty and Leadership Fund plunked down another $45,000 for a pair of direct mail campaigns supporting Steube, one on July 18 and another on July 25, while the With Honor Fund pitched in the remaining $16,500 for polling on July 9.

Liberty and Leadership also paid for another pair of mail campaigns opposing Gonzalez that rang up at the same $45,000 price tag as its pro-Steube campaigns, while National Horizon weighed in against the Venice Republican with a $112,000 transaction for media production and placement.

There’s likely more where that came from.

Club for Growth and Liberty and Leadership put out a joint announcement last month touting more than $1 million in fundraising to support Steube’s congressional bid. As of now, the two groups have spent $614,400 so they should have plenty of gas left in the tank for the last four weeks of the primary race.

Whether With Honor, a veterans group that endorsed the former U.S. Army Captain, has more expenditures lined up is unknown.

There’s some money working against Steube, too.

The Conservative Leadership Alliance put down $200,000 to oppose Steube. How the funds were used wasn’t listed in the transaction report, though the cash went to FlexPoint Media, a strategy group that specializes in digital media distribution.

The large influx in independent spending is in addition to the six-figure campaign accounts sported by both candidates. Through the second quarter, Steube had raised more than $400,000 in hard money, $15,000 of it candidate loans, while Gonzalez had brought in more than $458,000 including $150,000 in loans.

On the endorsement front, it’s not as close. Gonzalez got an early nod from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, but Steube launched his campaign with dozens of backers already in tow, and has since added received an official thumbs up from several conservative groups, including the National Rifle Association.

On Wednesday, his list of backers grew with the addition of Sarasota GOP chair and state Rep. Joe Gruters.

“The President needs allies in Congress,” said Gruters, who is running for Steube’s state Senate seat. “Greg has proved to be a staunch conservative who will fight for President Trump’s agenda in Washington. I am proud to endorse his candidacy.”

The endorsement from Gruters, who was Trump’s Florida campaign chair, comes after the Steube campaign publicized negative tweets Gonzalez made about then-candidate Trump in March 2016.

Gonzalez and Steube are running alongside lesser-known Republican Greg Akins in the Republican primary for CD 17, which sprawls across parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Greg Steube swamps Julio Gonzalez in CD 17 fundraising

Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube said Friday that he brought in more than $337,000 for his congressional campaign last quarter — half again more than his Republican primary rival, Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez.

Steube touted his second round of fundraising numbers in the race for Florida’s 17th Congressional District while throwing some shade at Gonzalez, whom he labeled as a “Never Trump” Republican earlier this week for negative tweets he made about then-candidate Donald Trump in March 2016.

“The events of this week reveal the yearning Floridians have for sending conservatives to Washington that don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk,” Steube said. “Our strong fundraising numbers and growing list of conservative endorsements have given our campaign enormous momentum as we approach the August 28 primary election. I look forward to continue sharing our conservative vision with the voters.”

Those endorsements include a nod from the National Rifle Association rolled out by the Steube campaign Thursday, as well as endorsement from Florida Right to Life that the campaign bundled in with the fundraising announcement. Steube said the conservative group, which opposes abortion in all circumstances, gave him an “A Rating.”

Steube has now raised more than $400,000 in hard money, but another deluge of funds rolled in shortly after the campaign made its fundraising announcement.

Outside groups Liberty and Leadership Fund and Club for Growth PAC announced Friday that they were lining up behind Steube with $627,000 already in the bank to back his primary bid — and more than $400,000 of that cash has already been anted up for a broadcast, cable and satellite TV buy ahead of the Aug. 28 primary election.

“Greg Steube is a trusted conservative who has been a consistent fighter for freedom throughout his time in the Florida legislature,” said Club for Growth PAC President David McIntosh. “We can count on Steube to support President Trump’s pro-growth agenda.”

Gonzalez, for his part, has brought in about $458,000 for his campaign, including at least $150,000 in candidate loans.

He and Steube are running alongside lesser-known Republican Greg Akins in the Republican primary for CD 17, which is open this year due to the U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney deciding to forego re-election.

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 62-34 percent while Trump carried the district by nearly the same margin.

Greg Steube - CD 17 Campaign Photo

Greg Steube earns endorsement, ‘A+’ from NRA

Three Republicans are running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, but only one of them is a straight shooter according to the National Rifle Association.

The group sent a letter to state Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota this week telling him he’d earned their support in the race for the expansive and solidly Republican district.

“On behalf of our six million members across the country, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is proud to endorse your candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives in the August 28, 2018, Republican primary for the 17th Congressional District of Florida,” said NRA spokesperson Chris Cox.

The letter continued, “Thank you for standing strong for freedom and defending NRA members and law-abiding gun owners in Florida. Based on your leadership on Second Amendment issues in the Florida Legislature, you have earned the highest attainable rating, an “A+”, from NRA-PVF.

“An ‘A+’ is reserved for a legislator with not only an excellent voting record on all critical NRA issues, but who has also made a vigorous effort to promote and defend the Second Amendment.”

The endorsement should be no surprise for Steube, who earned the NRA’s support over four other Republicans in his 2016 Senate bid and has been a stalwart advocate for NRA-backed policies during his time in the state Legislature.

“This endorsement unequivocally shows that gun-rights advocates want someone who doesn’t just talk about supporting the 2nd Amendment, but someone who has an actual record of defending our rights when they had the chance to. I will stand with President [Donald] Trump in supporting the gun rights of law abiding citizens in this country,” Steube said.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of our country’s largest citizen-led group. Conservatives know they have someone they can trust when it comes to defending their Constitutional rights.”

The NRA nod adds to a long list of supporters for Steube, 30 of whom announced their support the same day he announced his bid for Congress in late February.

That announcement came less than a week after Rooney announced he would not run for re-election in 2018. State Rep. Julio Gonzalez joined him in the primary shortly after the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped, making for two sitting state lawmakers in the race. Little-known Republican Greg Akins is also competing for the Republican nomination.

Gonzalez held a large fundraising lead at the end of the first quarter thanks in part to $150,000 in candidate loans, though his $84,000 in outside fundraising still bested Steube’s $63,550 Q1 haul. Earlier this week, Gonzalez said he’d reeled in another $225,000 in Q2, while Steube has yet to announce his tally.

Steube did, however, hit Gonzalez with a ton of bricks this week by publicizing some anti-Trump tweets he made prior to the president locking up the Republican nomination. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, whom Gonzalez supported in the 2016 presidential primary, was still in the race when Gonzalez made those statements.

CD 17 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 62-34 percent while Trump carried the district by nearly the same margin.

Gloves off: Greg Steube slams Julio Gonzalez as ‘Never Trump’ Republican

Sen. Greg Steube lambasted Rep. Julio Gonzalez Wednesday over tweets he made in 2016 disparaging then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Gonzalez and Steube are the two leading Republicans in the race for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, which is open in 2018 due to the retirement of current U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

Steube’s attack included screenshots of five tweets, all from March 2016, where Gonzalez states his opposition to the eventual president using the “#NeverTrump” hashtag.

In three of the tweets, the Venice Republican – who has since festooned his twitter bio with the “#MAGA” hashtag – expresses his support for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who was still competing for the GOP nomination at the time. Rubio has endorsed Gonzalez in the CD 17 race.

In one tweet, Gonzalez says “Trump is no conservative.” In another, he says “the fact that Trump is still in the race is deplorable.” All five tweets were still live as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Steube campaign seized on those tweets to paint comments Gonzalez made during a meeting with the Lee County Executive Committee last month as inconsistent in his views.

“The interesting thing about me as a candidate is that my views on these issues are all there for you to see and hear. If I say something inconsistent with where I have stood, you will find out about it. And a lot of those things were there before I ever decided I was going to run for Congress, so, the views are consistent,” Gonzalez is quoted as saying.

The Steube campaign said the tweets poke holes in Gonzalez’ claims of consistency and pointed to the recent primary defeat of longtime U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina as the consequence of being a “Never Trump” Republican in the current political climate.

When it comes to CD 17, that argument isn’t unsupported. The expansive and safely Republican district voted plus-27 for Trump two years ago.

“We need to send a conservative we can trust to Congress,” said Alex Blair, Steube’s campaign manager. “It’s clear that conservative is Greg Steube. He has always supported President Trump and will continue to do so in Congress.”

Gonzalez and Steube will be on the Aug. 28 primary ballot alongside little-known Republican Greg Akins.

Steube filed for CD 17 shortly after Rooney announced in late February that he would not seek re-election. Gonzalez followed shortly after the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped.

Gonzalez held a large fundraising lead at the end of the first quarter thanks in part to $150,000 in candidate loans, though his $84,000 in outside fundraising still bested Steube’s $63,550 Q1 haul. Earlier this week, Gonzalez said he’d reeled in another $225,000 in Q2, while Steube has yet to announce his tally.

CD 17 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.

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