State Rep. Anna Eskamani would not have approved ads showing Joe Gruters beside Charlottesville white supremacists, she said Friday.
But at the same time, the Orlando Democrat also said that’s part of the sport: “Politics is politics.”
The question came after state Sen. Gruters, also chair of the Republican Party of Florida, took umbrage with new digital ads.
Upon seeing ads setting his face beside protesters at the deadly 2017 Unite The Right protest in Virginia, Gruters cried foul.
In an op-ed published by Florida Politics, he said the ads prove how the left “loses all credibility.”
He also took notice of a connection.
“The advertisements are being paid for by a pro-illegal immigration group in Florida managed by the sister of a Democratic lawmaker,” he said.
That lawmaker is Eskamani, whose twin sister Ida works for the Florida Immigrant Coalition (though she’s a lobbyist and does not manage the group).
Rep. Eskamani noted her sister works for the Florida Immigrant Coalition itself, not its overtly political arm, FLIC Votes. The lawmaker also said she never saw the ads before Gruters wrote his column.
Of course, she aligns politically much more closely with FLIC than any of Gruters’ positions: She took issue with Gruters’ so-called “sanctuary cities” ban signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis this year.
“I would encourage all of my colleagues not to make people of color feel isolated,” she said.
But what of the ads? And of pictures of neo-Nazis with tiki torches beside a state Senator?
“It’s not a visual I would have used if I was crafting it,” Eskamani said. “You should be careful in using images from a protest where lives were lost.”
Gruters’ column prompted a conversation between him and Eskamani Thursday night, both lawmakers said.
“She did reach out to me last night, which I appreciated,” Gruters said. “But it was a private conversation; I’ll let the representative decide whether she wants to comment on the substance of the call.”
Eskamani said she expressed empathy at the deteriorating discourse of political ads. But then, she also noted 25 mailers were sent out regarding her state House candidacy last year, most of them negative.
“And they were plastered with RPOF on them,” she said.
Notably, Gruters became party chair in January, months after the campaign. Notably, Gruters also has slammed Twitter trolls who attacked Eskamani with sexist and anti-immigrant language.
But those party-funded ads stung, calling out Eskamani “vulgar” and “everything that is wrong with politics today.”
It was enough to prompt Eskamani’s own Florida Politics op-ed.
Ida Eskamani, meanwhile, referred questions about the ads to FLIC political director Thomas Kennedy. Kennedy stressed neither Eskamani was involved in the making of the ads.
And he defended their substance, which he considered a response to ads Gruters has run about a “caravan invasion.”
“I would ask Sen. Gruters to sit down and reflect on his own language, and to reassess his political positions and attacks on immigrants,” Kennedy said. “He’s the hateful one, not us.”
FLIC does not intend to take down the controversial ads. In fact, the group said it plans to renew them and blast another round on social media soon.