Inexplicably, controversial conservative talk-show host and former Illinois GOP Congressman Joe Walsh has become an issue in the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s race.
Walsh lit up a firestorm on social media Thursday night when he tweeted after five Dallas police officers were killed during a Black Lives Matter protest that, “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you” (the tweet has since been deleted).
Walsh also sent out subsequent tweets, once of which read, “You did this Obama. You did this liberals. You did this #BLM.”
Walsh was in Tampa a few months ago, where he endorsed Todd Jones, the Republican challenging Bob Henriquez in the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s race in November. Now Henriquez is calling on Jones to repudiate Walsh’s comments and reject that endorsement.
“I’ve always gone by the axiom my mother told me: tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are,” Henriquez said Friday afternoon. While acknowledging that candidates cannot be responsible for everything their supporters say or do, Henriquez says that a basic Google search should have been good enough for Jones to understand how controversial Walsh has been with some of his remarks since first getting elected in the big Tea Party explosion of 2010.
Walsh’s time in Congress was limited to a single term after his district was altered in 2012. He ended up losing that year to Democrat Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both her legs in a helicopter crash. During that campaign, he accused her of talking too much about her military service, and ultimately lost to her by 10 percentage points.
Walsh now hosts a talk-show in Chicago that is syndicated by Salem Media.
“I don’t know anybody who would want to be associated with him,” Henriquez says, adding that Jones has run as a “purple candidate” who says the job should be above politics.
Jones said he had no problem repudiating the tweet by Walsh, calling it “an undisciplined emotional reaction to a truly tragic incident.”
Unlike Henriquez, who served in the Florida Legislature for eight years, Jones is a political novice. A lifelong property appraiser, he’s running for office for the first time, and has said on the campaign trail that the position should be about who has the best qualifications for the job.
Saying that he’s “green to politics,” Jones said he’d have to “think about that a little bit” when asked if he would disavow the Walsh endorsement, which he said he was flattered to receive after the two met at an event at the University of Tampa. Jones said he had never met Walsh before that event, and hasn’t spoken to him since.
Jones initially spoke to this reporter while he was driving. A few minutes after our initial conversation, he blasted Henriquez for politicizing the events out of Dallas.
“Shame on Bob for exploiting such a tragedy for political gain,” he said. “I’m sorry, the congressman’s comments are obviously reprehensible and inappropriate and don’t help the situation, but Bob ’s motivation is pretty clear and I think it’s sad.”