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Accompanied by Hunter Pollack, Republicans rally in Andrew Gillum’s backyard

This election, Republicans aren’t writing off places like Leon County, despite registered Democrats outnumbering GOP voters nearly 2-1.

On Saturday, a little more than a week out from Nov. 6, volunteers with the Republican Party of Florida met in Tallahassee before splitting up for targeted door-knocking.

Among them: Hunter Pollack, whose sister Meadow was killed in the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 students, faculty and staff dead.

Pollack, a second-year political science major at Florida State University, is one of several MSD students who entered the limelight after the Parkland tragedy. But he’s parlayed his ties to the South Florida high school into Republican activism, rather than the single-issue gun control advocacy that others have opted for.  

Hunter Pollack met Republican Gov. Rick Scott in February after the shooting, and they’ve been “close ever since.” He’s acted as a trail surrogate for Scott’s bid for the U.S. Senate and said he met Ron DeSantis, the Republican candidate for Governor, after realizing they had common ground in faulting the FBI.

“We have a good friendship,” Hunter Pollack said of DeSantis.

And Scott, in a statement, said he “worked closely with Hunter and his father, Andy, to improve school safety through the passage of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, and I have been humbled to see their dedication to improving our state in honor of Hunter’s sister Meadow, who was tragically murdered.

“Hunter is a tireless advocate for school safety, and is working hard to share our commitment to protecting students across the state. I am honored to have the support of the Pollacks and will continue to fight for our children in Florida and Washington.”

During the recent CNN debate between DeSantis and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, the former congressman noted that he’s been working with Hunter Pollack’s father, Andrew Pollack, to address school security concerns in the wake of the Parkland tragedy.

Andrew Pollack also recently cut a robocall for DeSantis, encouraging Floridians to support DeSantis and criticizing Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, for signing a pledge from the Dream Defenders, known for its 2013 month-long sit-in at the state’s Capitol

When speaking to voters, whether on the phone or at the door, Pollack offers a unique perspective. If given the chance, he said he tells voters about his sister. That’s followed up by praise for Republicans at the top of the ticket.

“I think people need to know” about Meadow, he said. “But they also need to be enlightened about the positive stuff and my positive experiences with [Scott] and [DeSantis].”

Despite the hard-hitting recent news coverage, which this week further detailed Gillum’s ties to a two-year-long FBI investigation into corruption in the capital city, Hunter Pollack and others working with Republicans said they keep the message at the door “positive.”

Nich Bique, who serves as the field organizer for 13 counties in the Big Bend region, said the party harps on their candidate’s strengths — like Scott’s job record and DeSantis’ military service — rather than diving into the dirt with voters.

To Bique, it’s a winning strategy. He’s overseen a team that credits itself with shifting nearby Wakulla County, a historically Democratic county, red in voter registration earlier this summer. Statewide, Bique said, the party has knocked on more than 3 million doors and called 2.6 million Floridians.

Currently, the team is “targeting low-propensity Republicans,” Bique said. “Republicans who typically don’t get out to vote in a midterm year, a primary, or an off-year general.”

Ultimately, however, it’s a margins game for Republicans in Tallahassee, where one of two Democratic mayoral candidates competing in a runoff  to replace the unabashedly progressive Gillum  has sought to brand the other as a “conservative.”

Written By

Danny McAuliffe is a Tallahassee correspondent for Florida Politics. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. He is a lifelong Floridian and indulges in swimming, hiking, running and memes when the news cycle permits. Reach him at dmcauliffe500@gmail.com.

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