Republican Marva Preston offered no proof Tuesday that her Democratic opponent, Loranne Ausley, wrongly accepted money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
Preston’s chance to substantiate the claim came during a Senate District 3 debate when moderator and Tallahassee Democrat News Director Jim Rosica asked her to explain the allegation.
Rather than furnish evidence, Preston spoke vaguely and stopped short of directly accusing her opponent.
“I believe in what I’ve seen and there’s documentation that, yes, the party took the money and, yes, the money made its way to places where it wasn’t supposed to be – meaning it did not go to the Payroll Protection Plan,” the 27-year law enforcement veteran said. “So, if there’s an allegation, whether it is against me or against anyone else, I am 100% behind finding out the truth.”
Preston’s remarks come days after the Florida Republican Senatorial Committee launched a series of mailers and TV ads claiming the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) funneled PPP money through a political committee and into Ausley’s campaign.
The federal relief program was intended to save businesses, nonprofits and their employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It was not, however, intended for political groups.
While the FDP has since returned the funding after facing a bipartisan backlash, Ausley has maintained her campaign never received or pocketed any money.
She reiterated her position at the debate and asked Preston to pull the attack ads.
“Our campaign did not receive any money and this is another page from the Trump playbook of lies and distractions because they don’t want to talk about the issues,” Ausley said. “Now that we know the truth, I hope that maybe Miss Preston will pull these ads and pull these flyers. I get them everyday, I get sometimes two or three a day.”
SD 3 is a Democratic-leaning seat that covers all of Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor and Wakulla counties in North Florida.
Similar allegations against Democratic candidates including Javier Fernandez and Patricia Sigman have been weaponized in their respective races.