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Florida Democrats slam Mike Pence for fundraising amid coronavirus scare

He’s attending a Friday NRCC fundraiser at Vern Buchanan’s home

Florida Democrats aren’t offering a warm welcome to Vice President Mike Pence, in Sarasota for a Friday fundraiser.

Rather, party leaders slammed Pence for political activity 48 hours after President Donald Trump tapped him to oversee U.S response to coronavirus threats.

“The Trump administration’s backwards priorities are on full display,” said Terrie Rizzo, Florida Democratic Party chair. “Pence is coming to fundraise in Florida two days after being appointed to lead our national response on the coronavirus. Trump’s carelessness with our health and safety is deeply alarming.”

Pence will attend a fundraiser at the Longboat Key home of Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan on Friday, a private event first reported by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The event will benefit the National Republican Congressional Committee.

It costs $2,500 to attend the reception and $25,000 to attend the dinner and get a picture with Pence. NRCC officials expect 100 to 150 people to attend.

Officials with the NRCC previously said the Florida fundraiser comes at a time when Republicans hope to expand their map in the state. Recent comments by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, current frontrunner for the nomination, about late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro have put South Florida Democrats on the defensive, and the GOP looks to exploit that.

NRCC officials dismissed criticism of the Pence fundraiser.

“These Democrats are flailing trying to distract from their front runner being a self-avowed socialist who is a Fidel Castro sympathizer and it’s really quite pathetic,” said NRCC spokeswoman Camille Gallo.

Some of the Democrats fighting for House seats in Florida labeled the event as an inappropriate distraction at time when fears about the coronavirus grow by the hour.

Rep. Donna Shalala, previously President Bill Clinton’s Health and Human Services Secretary, also took aim at Pence. The Miami Democrat in 2018 flipped a Miami district, and faces a rematch with Republican Maria Elvira Salazar in 2020.

“Rather than focusing his attention on leading the country’s response to the growing coronavirus concern, Vice President Pence is instead spending his time flying to and from fundraisers. The people of America deserve an effective and coordinated response.”

She’s not alone.

“After being put in charge of the administration’s coronavirus response, Pence should be focused on addressing this global health emergency — not fleeing DC to fundraise,” said Rep. Lois Frankel, a Boca Raton Democrat.

“His pitch will be the same nonsense we’ve heard before. Floridians know the real impact of Trump’s tax scam is massive handouts for corporations and the ultra wealthy at the expense of hardworking American families.”

Frankel faces a well-funded challenge from right-wing activist Laura Loomer.

The venue for the fundraiser also captured the attention of state Rep. Margaret Good, the Democrat challenging Buchanan in 2020. She’s not happy to see Pence in her Sarasota community right now.

“President Trump tasked Vice President Pence to spearhead the federal government’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak, but instead the first thing the Vice President did was get on a plane to headline a fundraiser with Vern Buchanan. Pence is turning his back on the health and safety of the American people just like Vern Buchanan did when he voted again and again to dismantle the Affordable Care Act,” Good said.

“Pence is coming to Sarasota because National Republicans know that Vern is in trouble — and they’re terrified of losing this seat. In their attempt to save Vern, they’re risking the health and safety of the American people. They need to reorder their priorities, cancel this fundraiser, and focus on containing this virus.”

Buchanan’s camp for its part stressed the event was organized by the NRCC to benefit efforts for Republicans to retake the House. Buchanan and Pence served in the House together for six years. Money raised will most likely go other races, whether in Florida or in other battleground districts nationwide.

The NRCC also hasn’t ever stepped in for Buchanan in past reelection efforts, knowledgeable that Buchanan has personal resources that he’s tapped before. He won his last reelection campaign against Democrat David Shapiro in 2018 by 10%.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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