Days after Sarasota Republican Fiona McFarland uttered the words “Black Lives Matter,” email and text blasts are scolding the first-time Republican candidate for even using the phrase.
Primary opponent Donna Barcomb attacked the choice of words in a text and message to voters.
“I do not believe our police, our Sheriff or our justice system is inherently racist,” the Barcomb blast reads. “Unlike Fiona, I will never, ever defund the police.”
But McFarland never specifically said that she would defund the police and is even running a television ad stating that she “will stand with law enforcement to keep our streets safe.”
At the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club last week, McFarland stated: “Black lives matter. Police also matter. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive.”
Barcomb said the use of the particular phrase unmistakably embraces the Black Lives Matter movement at the heart of sometimes violent demonstrations across the country. And the words de facto endorsed the “Defund The Police” message central to recent protests.
McFarland fired back, stating unequivocally that she does not support the Black Lives Matter movement or efforts by the fringe to defund the police:
“It’s disappointing that the Barcomb campaign is purposely spreading misinformation,” she said. “Let me be very clear, I do not support the BLM movement or the anarchist and Marxist undertones of that movement. Anybody who knows me knows that I’ve always stood with law enforcement and will always stand with law enforcement. But I unapologetically support our African American community, and I cherish the diversity of this community and this country.”
As a Navy veteran, McFarland referenced police as “public safety brothers and sisters.”
McFarland’s campaign took particular umbrage with a misleading text sent out by Barcomb that read, “McFarland called defunding police dangerous, but she said it’s critical… ‘Black Lives Matter.’”
That was a line from a Florida Politics article on the forum, but the ellipses eliminate the words “in the wake of instances such as George Floyd’s death that institutional racism be addressed.”
“I would never support defunding our police, and in fact think we should give law enforcement the resources they need to do a difficult job,” McFarland said.
Among the memorable passages of Barcomb’s email, she suggests a lack of perspective explains McFarland’s view. “Fiona is probably too young to remember the tumultuous civil unrest in the 1960’s – I am not,” the email reads.
The phrase seemed especially potent coming out the same day civil rights leader John Lewis died.
Barcomb said that line was meant to stress that “the violence in the 1960s is similar to what we are seeing today.”
“Yes there is peaceful protesting and I believe strongly in the Constitutional right to peaceful protesting. Sarasota has been fortunate in that regard,” Barcomb said.
“But the issues we are seeing with tearing down statues, looting and violence, that has nothing to do with the peaceful right to protest.”
Asked about whether she thought any positives were netted from the violence in the ‘60s political movement, Barcomb does not.
“Oh my goodness no,” she said. “I don’t want to get to the point where it’s that violent.”
Nevertheless, Barcomb told Florida Politics she was shocked by statements McFarland made at a Tiger Bay forum Thursday featuring candidates for House District 72. Barcomb said she was equally shocked at the Tiger Bay forum when all candidates were asked if they would accept the endorsement of Planned Parenthood.
Barcomb immediately brushed away the suggestion and said no, she would not accept it.
“I’m a pro-life candidate,” she said. Democrat Drake Buckman said he “absolutely” would embrace the support. Republican Jason Miller surprised many saying he too would accept, if only on the hope he could bring the group closer to “a version of pro-life.” McFarland said she is pro-life but any organization has the constitutional right to endorse whoever they want:
“I support free speech so Planned Parenthood is welcome to endorse whichever candidate they think aligns with their values,” she said. “I also am pro-life so I wonder if I might not be that person for them.
McFarland told Florida Politics she considers the answer to a hypothetical a strange place to level attacks. “The protection of life, particularly protection of a life that cannot defend itself, is a moral obligation,” she said.
Barcomb said she felt surprisingly alone at the forum in supporting a complete defunding of Planned Parenthood even though none of the candidates were specifically asked whether or not they support defunding it.
“Republicans have a choice,” she said. “They can choose me. I am a true conservative. Or they can choose Fiona. She’s trying to embrace true conservative values. But she was raised by her New York liberal upbringing.”
That shot echoes criticism McFarland just moved to the district before filing to run and has drawn much of her support from out of state. In Barcomb’s email, she notes McFarland spent more time in California and New York than Sarasota.
Barcomb, as it happens, also grew up in California. As for the reason McFarland lived there, she was stationed in the Golden State for six years serving on guided-missile destroyers.
Regarding New York, McFarland said she did not grow up in a liberal household. “My mother ran against Hillary Clinton,” she said.