Former Democratic Reps. Dwight Bullard and Cindy Polo say controversial Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini should resign from office, and they’re asking GOP leadership to force Sabatini’s hand.
Bullard and Polo made that call during a Wednesday afternoon conference call. Thomas Kennedy, the Florida coordinator for United We Dream, joined that call as well.
Bullard spoke in his capacity as political director for New Florida Majority.
“We are going into what is going to be one of the most tumultuous legislative sessions on record,” Bullard said Wednesday.
“It is absolutely crucial that legislators like Rep. Sabatini do not weigh in on legislation that Floridians need in the time of dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racism, while clinging to dangerous ideals. Everything we’ve known about our rights and protections will need to be addressed this upcoming session and we can’t allow bigoted lawmakers to apply their biases to this important legislation.”
Sabatini has positioned himself as a flamethrower in the Florida House. Wednesday’s call participants highlighted several of his more controversial moments, from a photo of Sabatini in blackface during his high school days to a recent tweet suggesting Kyle Rittenhouse should run for Congress. Rittenhouse is being charged with murder after shooting multiple people in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse and his attorneys have claimed self-defense after social media postings showed protestors confronting Rittenhouse.
“We are calling on [House] Speaker Chris Sprowls, we are calling on [Senate] President Wilton Simpson, to stand with us and stand with Floridians in asking Rep. Sabatini to resign from office,” Bullard said. Polo added that the potential punishment doesn’t have to be limited to resignation.
“My call to action, in addition to that, is mostly to the Republican Party leadership to show your own power in not accepting that behavior,” Polo said. “He can be stripped of every single one of his committee assignments.”
This isn’t the first time Sabatini has sparked outrage and calls for discipline. During nationwide protests in May, Sabatini posted an inflammatory tweet threatening to personally shoot looters on sight. Then-House Speaker José Oliva declined to sanction Sabatini, prompting pushback from Polo and others.
Sabatini’s actions have continued to provoke plenty of criticism.
“Rep. Sabatini’s an embarrassment,” said Kennedy of United We Dream. “He’s an embarrassment to the Florida Legislature. He’s an embarrassment to our state. He’s an embarrassment to the general idea of public office. He’s a person that uses and abuses his public position and his responsibility to the public, to be inflammatory.”
“He really is a public health menace,” Kennedy argued. “It’s unacceptable that we have a public official who’s this irresponsible and, frankly, malicious.”
Polo, a progressive who lost her House District 103 seat in November to Republican Tom Fabricio, said Democrats have been wary of going after Sabatini.
“There’s a lot of talk even within my political party of not wanting to give attention to a person like Sabatini,” Polo said, before analogizing Sabatini’s behavior to that of a toddler.
“As a mother of a 5-year-old, I recognize that not every single time that my toddler throws a tantrum am I going to pay attention to him. But there is absolutely going to be a time where he is going to be held accountable and he will be disciplined.”
Polo has had her own history with Sabatini. After her November loss, Sabatini mocked her exit from the House, labeling her a “socialist.”
“You won’t be missed,” he added.
Polo responded with barbs of her own. “I’ve never been a socialist. I’m no longer a state Rep. But you…continue to be a racist piece of sh*t!”