Florida Republicans are releasing ads linking local businesswoman and GOP activist Rhonda Rebman Lopez to disgraced former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, as Lopez attempts to Primary incumbent GOP Rep. Jim Mooney.
Now, Lopez is pushing back, asserting her conservative bona fides exceed those of her incumbent opponent in House District 120.
The new TV ad ties Lopez to Gillum and labels her a “RINO” who has been “paid for by Democrats.” It includes clips from reports Florida Politics published detailing how a Democratically backed political committees funded ads supporting Lopez’s campaign, including one pulled off the air for false statements about incumbent HD 120 Rep. Jim Mooney.
Funding for the ad — which urges viewers to vote for Mooney, Miami-Dade County Rep. Juan Fernandez-Baruqin and West Palm Beach Rep. Rick Roth — came from the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee.
Lopez responded Thursday, dismissing any suggestion she is in cahoots with the Democratic Party or Gillum — who faces federal charges for allegedly embezzling funds from his 2018 gubernatorial campaign — as patently false.
“I’ve never met that man in my life,” she told Florida Politics, asserting she is a proud conservative with deep Republican roots and a history of support for Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“I introduced Ronald Reagan at the University of Alabama when he was President and I was a cheerleader. My daddy is a Korean War vet. My grandfather is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. My husband is a pilot in the U.S. Navy. I was co-Chair of Women for DeSantis in South Florida when he ran against Gillum. I’m the No. 1 fundraiser Monroe County has ever seen — I brought Marco Rubio in and raised over $125,000; they’ve been trying to get Marco to speak for five years, and I got him — and that’s what the leadership in Tallahassee is saying about me?”
Lopez, who lost to Mooney in the 2020 Republican Primary for HD 120 by 1 percentage point, suggested the state GOP’s support for Mooney is because he generally toes the party line. But he’s made some exceptions in defiance of DeSantis’ agenda, she said.
“He takes every vote they ask him to take. He’s one of those legislators that’s happy to be there. He’s like a golden retriever,” she said. “Well, I’m a German shepherd, and I’m only taking the votes that are best for House District 120.”
She continued, “Jim Mooney voted against clean water and the parental rights (in education) bill. That’s Gov. DeSantis’ signature legislation, and he voted against it.”
Lopez led a six-person field in June fundraising for Florida’s southernmost House district with $36,000.
Through July 15, she’s raised close to $165,000 this election cycle. Of that, she had more than $59,000 left to spend between her campaign account and political committee, Advocates for Florida Keys Protection.
Lopez’s largest single gain last month was a $10,000 self-loan. The director of international marketing at PECO International Electric, a Florida-based business her husband has led since 2009, said she’s willing to spend far more than that to supplant Mooney.
“(The Republican leadership in Tallahassee told me), ‘It may cost us $1 million to bring Jimmy back up here, and we’re going to do it,’ and I said, ‘Guess what? I have to sell three power transformers at my company to bring in $1 million, so I’m going to sell four,” she said. “And I’ll still be eating steak for dinner.”
Through July 15, Lopez’s campaign reported raising $133,000 and spending $73,000 this election cycle. Meanwhile, Mooney has raised $303,000, spent $143,000 and enjoyed about $64,000 worth of in-kind aid from the Republican Party of Florida in the form of polling help, campaign staff and food and beverages.
They face each other and fellow GOP candidate Robert Allen in the Republican Primary on Aug. 23. The General Election is on Nov. 8.
Allen has raised $4,850 since filing to run in December. Of that, all but $100 came from his own bank account.
On the other side of the political aisle, political operative and lawyer Daniel Horton-Diaz will square off against anti-corruption lawyer Adam Gentle in the Democratic Primary.
Horton-Diaz has raised $77,000 and spent $40,000 since filing to run for HD 120 January. Gentle holds about $48,000 of roughly $101,000 he’s amassed since January.
HD 120 contains Homestead and Florida City in Miami-Dade County, including Homestead Air Reserve Base and Biscayne National Park, as well as all of Monroe County.