Political differences morphed into professional attacks in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.
Republican Darren Aquino called for Florida Gulf Coast University to fire Democrat Cindy Banyai as a professor because of her support for “riots” and for being a “communist sympathizer.”
“You cannot have communists or communist sympathizers teaching our kids,” he tweeted.
“I have friends who have escaped Communism in Cuba. My relatives fought communism overseas. Her statements show incredible hubris.”
His demand came after Banyai on June 20 tweeted about communism, saying the philosophy is about collective ownership of production means and elimination of social class, not political persecution or mandatory compliance.
“What most people fear about communism is actually authoritarianism,” she wrote. “You should absolutely fear authoritarianism.”
When that tweet received negative attention, she stressed she was promoting an academic discussion.
“The whole point of this post was to try to get those who are worried about communism to make the connection with authoritarianism to channel your angst there,” she wrote. “But y’all so triggered by the word communism the point ran right by you.”
Aquino was among many responding to her original post.
“300 million people died under communism. Cindy wants that for America,” he wrote.
Banyai thought little of Aquino’s calls for her termination.
“I’m calling for Darren to get a platform or drop out of the race because there are exactly 0 actual people who will vote for his non-stop attacks and nonsensical statements,” she wrote.
Asked about the latest attack, Banyai similarly fired back.
“As an instructor in the field of political science, I want to help people understand the threat of authoritarianism and our slide towards it in the US. It’s an important dialogue and one I’m proud to lead. It’s a shame that it was hijacked by reactionaries and political opportunists, stifling the conversation,” she said.
“Mr. Aquino has made attacks on me a centerpiece for his campaign. It’s awful to be the focus of these malicious attacks by Aquino and his followers. I’m growing concerned that the online vitriol will move into real life violence against me or my family. It is wholly unacceptable that another candidate for Congress engage in such behavior, including inciting a virtual mob to call for my job for simply exercising my First Amendment right of free speech.”
None of the other nine active candidates running in the district paid any attention to the conversation.
While opponents, it’s unclear if Aquino and Banyai will ever share the same ballot. Banyai faces Democrat David Holden in an August primary, with Holden holding a distinct cash advantage based on first quarter filings. Likewise, Aquino at that point trailed seven of his eight Republican primary opponents in cash on hand.
But Aquino’s still upset over Banyai’s employment and presence in the contest. More recently, he accused her of supporting rioters and the vandalism of Confederate statues. Banyai has called for permanent removal of a bust of Robert E. Lee in downtown Fort Myers.
Aquino tweeted Monday that Banyai was a “pro communist and hate criminal” who should be fired for “her support of communism and hate crimes against the American people. She supports the riots and toppling down of statues. Nobody is supporting her other than commies and anarchists.”