Senate Republican leadership says Heather Fitzenhagen needs to fire her campaign consultants or face their wrath.
Hours after launching a television ad comparing the Fort Myers Republican to Nancy Pelosi and blasting her record on immigration and gun control, the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a public ultimatum.
“While Fitzenhagen is free to enter any race she chooses, her attempts to destroy the GOP majority must end now,” reads an email from the committee.
The FRSCC, led by Republican Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson, aims to maintain or expand the GOP majority in the upper chamber. It’s clear the political committee views Fitzenhagen’s campaign tactic in a Senate District 27 primary as a challenge to that cause.
Republican leadership, including Simpson and Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo, last year endorsed Estero Republican Ray Rodrigues for the seat.
Leaders also made clear they didn’t want primaries complicating the election season, including in safe Republican districts.
But with reports Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer attempted to force an open primary in District 27 to the benefit of Fitzenhagen, there’s been speculation the Fort Myers Republican wasn’t loyal to Republican leadership.
The newest open letter from the FRSCC says it’s time for Fitzenhagen to prove she stands with the Grand Old Party.
“This week, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Republican candidate for Senate District 27, was caught talking out of both sides of her mouth by Politico, The Capitalist and the NRA’s Marion Hammer,” a letter said. “Fitzenhagen, her advisors and her campaign spokesperson launched attacks on Simpson and Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo, next in line for the Senate Presidency after Simpson.”
The Capitolist on Thursday reported on an email blast by Hammer, one of the most powerful NRA lobbyists in the country, accusing Fitzenhagen of pledging her support to Farmer for Senate President. That followed a report by POLITICO that the District 27 primary could “help Democrats’ control of the Florida Senate.”
The FRSCC said Fitzenhagen must now do several things to prove party loyalty: “unequivocally commit to voting to protect the Republican majority;” “condemn and apologize for the baseless attacks on Senate leadership;” and “immediately fire staff and consultants responsible for the baseless attacks on Senate leadership.”
A polling memo from Remington Research Group commissioned by Fitzenhagen not only tested her in a head-to-head with Rodrigues, but also the value of his leadership endorsements. The memo concluded: “These numbers are why incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson and the political establishment are scared. Not only do their endorsements mean nothing in this race, their hand-anointed candidate, Ray Rodrigues, is embarrassingly behind.”
The FRSCC also inferred negative stories about Simpson may be getting shopped to media by consultants tied to Fitzenhagen.
For what it’s worth, Fitzenhagen shortly before the FRSCC demands were released told Florida Politics she “absolutely” intends to support Simpson for Senate President and will only consider voting for Republicans in leadership positions.
She has not announced any change in personnel, nor issued any kind of apology to leadership or the committee running attack ads on her candidacy.