Florida Senate candidate Ed Hooper paid $200,000 to the same campaign consulting group that worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign and for former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore.
A consultant working for Hooper’s campaign insisted that the payment was a pass through media buy and that the consulting group was not directly doing work on the campaign.
Still, Murphy’s campaign fired back at the media buy.
“We generally do not comment on another’s campaign vendors, but in this case it is appropriate to make an exception. For Ed Hooper to go out-of-state to hire the firm that worked for the disgraced pedophile, Roy Moore, is a bridge too far,” Murphy said in a statement. “Ed Hooper should immediately fire the firm and apologize to the voters of Pinellas and Pasco County for bringing these vermin to our state.”
The Strategy Group Company worked on Moore’s successful Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice campaign. Moore lost a contentious Special Election to a Democrat last year after allegations of assaulting underage girls plagued his campaign. The Special Election was held to replace now Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Moore’s district is heavily conservative.
Hooper reported the expense in his most recent campaign finance filings with the Florida Division of Elections covering contributions and expenditures from September 1-14.
The Delaware company also worked on high profile campaigns for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Congresswoman Michelle Bachman and former House Speaker John Boehner.
The GOP campaign shop’s resume reads like a who’s who of conservative victories, according to its website.
A video on the company’s home page shows a reel of candidates including Trump and Pence.
Hooper did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The former state Representative is running against another former Representative, Democrat Amanda Murphy, for the Senate District 16 seat covering parts of north Pinellas and Pasco County.
Campaign filings show Hooper, like other GOP legislative candidates, massively out-raising his Democratic opponent.
Hooper raised $17,000 during the first two weeks of September bringing his total campaign contributions to date to $500,000. Murphy raised just $15,000 during the most recent campaign reporting period bringing her total contributions to $89,000.
Murphy did not have any notable campaign expenses in her latest campaign finance filing.
Contributions to Hooper rolled in from a host of conservative groups and special interest groups including Working Together for Florida, the political action committee associated with Southwest Florida Senator Kathleen Passidomo.
Groups representing lawyers, the pool industry and agriculture industry also contributed to Hooper’s campaign.
Murphy received contributions from Ruth’s List, a liberal organization that supports female Democratic candidates, the SEIU, the Plumbers and Pipefitters PAC and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s Sunrise PAC.
Murphy lost her previously held House district by fewer than 700 votes to Republican Amber Mariano. The race was considered a huge loss for Democrats despite the narrow majority in a district that went against Hillary Clinton in 2016 by double digits.
Hooper left the house to run for Pinellas County Commission in 2014 where he lost to Democrat Pat Gerard.
The two are running for the seat formerly held by Jack Latvala who resigned amid allegations of sexual impropriety with a female lobbyist.
The district covers Clearwater, Dunedin, New Port Richey, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor and Palm Harbor.
The race is considered competitive. A St. Pete Polls survey in June put the race at 45-43 percent with Hooper holding a slight advantage, though that edge is within the margin of error.
It is a red district. Republicans make up about 38 percent of the district’s electorate while Democrats account for about a third. The district went plus 12 for Trump in 2016.