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Matt Gaetz is throwing his support behind Republican Anna Paulina Luna in CD 13.

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Joe Henderson: Anna Paulina Luna ad stresses her independence, but is she really?

In Donald Trump’s Republican Party, independence is a four-letter word.

The new ad from Anna Paulina Luna may be the best one you will see in this election season. It is sassy, pointed, and tells the story of a candidate ready to fight if she defeats incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist in November for his seat in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Just one thing about it that bothers me.

After her upset victory in the GOP primary, Luna pledged to help President Donald Trump “drain the swamp.” During the campaign, she tied herself to Trump as often as possible.

So, what? Isn’t that the smart play, given the stranglehold Trump has on whatever is left of the Republican old guard?

Of course.

Luna’s ad, though, stresses her independence.

“Unlike the crooks in Congress, I’m not going to lie to your face and tell you what you want to hear,” Luna said in the ad. “I survived poverty, shootings, and gangs. I joined the Air Force and I owe everything to America. And now, I’m fiercely independent because of it all.”

Maybe she means she would be independent of GOP House leadership.

Well, OK. As a military veteran though, Luna knows independence only goes so far.

In Trump’s world, independence is a four-letter word. He commands, you obey. The endorsement Trump gave Luna immediately after her primary win would turn to Twitter dust if she strayed from his marching orders.

Once a candidate pledges loyalty to Trump, there is no going back. You do it his way, or he and loyalists like Rep. Matt Gaetz make your life difficult.

Just ask soon-to-be-former Rep. Ross Spano.

Gaetz turned on Spano, a Republican incumbent, mind you.

Even though Spano had a lot of support among Republicans, Gaetz decided a campaign finance scandal could drag him down. Maybe a larger issue, though, was Spano’s vote against Trump’s budget proposal in January because it increased the national debt.

Trump took it as a betrayal.

Gaetz backed challenger Scott Franklin. The WingmanPAC contributed more than $71,000 to defeat Spano.

Gaetz also endorsed Luna.

There’s no doubt that Luna has an uphill climb. St. Pete Polls gave Crist a 16-point lead in its initial sampling of the race. That’s roughly the same margin he won the seat by in 2018.

He has raised $2.1 in donations compared with just under $1 million for Luna, according to federal campaign reports. CD 13 has more registered Democrats, too.

Even if Luna loses, though – and in 2020, nothing is certain – she may have a bright future in Republican politics if she wants that. Luna is only 31 and has a compelling story.

She is Hispanic-American of Mexican descent, raised by her single mother in a low-income California neighborhood. She spent six years in the Air Force and holds a degree in biology. Luna has all the conservative chops, including an AQ-rating from the National Rifle Association.

The “Q” is because she doesn’t have a voting record for the NRA to judge. The rating is based strictly on responses to a questionnaire.

It may be a bit premature to say Luna is a rising GOP star, especially if she loses big to Crist. But loyalty goes a long way in Trump’s party.

It’s OK to say you’ll be independent as long as you remember who’s in charge.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.



  1. Sonja Fitch

    September 17, 2020 at 7:41 am

    Luna is carrying Trumps racist sexist baggage! Luna children were in cages! Luna Puerto Rico has survived because the people are determined to put it in trumps face! Vote Blue! Vote Crist!

  2. Paco Rabone

    September 17, 2020 at 12:14 pm

    I’ve seen jellyfish with more spine than Charlie Christ. Voting Luna all the way.

  3. Tom

    September 19, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    So Ms. Luna was endorsed by Mr. Looney. Which guy do I mean by “Mr. Looney” you may ask, is it Trump or Gaetz? For me it’s Trump, but your Gaetz is as good as mine.

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