The latest polls suggest that the GOP primary in House District 74 pitting Julio Gonzalez versus Richard DeNapoli will go down to the wire. In a race that could be decided by a handful of votes, every decision made by the candidates is all the more important. There is no room for a miscalculation.
That’s why, in this environment, the latest television ad from supporters of DeNapoli could be dangerous for him. They may be playing with fire.
First, some background.
Accusations about “death panels,” military service and links to Democrats have made this race for an open House seat in Sarasota County one of the state’s most-watched legislative races, reports Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida.
The battle over the HD 74 seat, now held by term-limited Venice Republican Doug Holder, is likely one of the most expensive House races in recent history and ranks among the ugliest as well.
Groups backing Gonzalez and DeNapoli are expected to spend up to $1 million in the fight over the south Sarasota County seat, which takes in all of Venice and North Port.
It’s hard to find much to differentiate the pair on the issues. Both wear their conservatism as a badge. But they’ve also both been targeted as liberals for supporting Democratic candidates such as Broward County Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who also serves as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, who received money from the House hopefuls when he was running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate.
The battle has also morphed into a grudge match between long-term enemies, the Florida Medical Association, which has thrown its clout behind one of its own in Gonzalez, and the Florida Justice Association, whose affiliates are supporting lawyer DeNapoli, reports Kam.
That the race is a proxy fight between the FMA and FJA is readily apparent in this new ad from allies of DeNapoli. Titled, “Bought and Paid For,” the 30-second spot says that “half-a-million dollars” has been “funneled” to Gonzalez by the “group leading the charge to expand Obamacare.”
Actually, the FMA (which is an advertiser on this website, but so is DeNapoli and the political consulting firm which works for DeNapoli) says it has never backed Obamacare.
“The FMA has opposed Obamacare from the start, and does so today,” said Tim Stapleton, Executive Vice President of the FMA. “Mr. DeNapoli should call for this deceptive and false ad to be pulled down before it embarrasses him further.”
The ad also says Gonzalez has been bought by “pro-amnesty” groups, which is a reference to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which did support giving a tuition break to undocumented immigrants. But its quite a leap to describe the Florida Chamber or the U.S. Chamber as “pro-amnesty.”
With this ad, DeNapoli’s camp has poked a stick in the other eye of the FMA and the Chamber.
“I guess I’ve seen it all,” said Stapleton. “A group funded by the trial lawyers supporting a liberal Republican manages in the space of 30 seconds to get nearly every fact wrong.”
Of course, a stick was already poking out of one eye, but now, to mix metaphors, the bee hive is really pissed off.
DeNapoli’s camp will tell you that the FMA and the Chamber were already stirred up, so what difference does it make if, as opposed to other attack ads DeNapoli’s allies have aired, the FMA and the Chamber is called out by name.
The answer to that question is it depends on what kind of name you call them.