In bitter HD 74 race, Richard DeNapoli responds to attack on brief military service

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Richard DeNapoli denies the latest charges made by his Republican opponent in a combative House District 74 GOP primary that took another dark turn.

“In politics, the last gasps of a losing campaign are desperate, erratic, and false attacks,” DeNapoli said in an email on Monday. “Julio Gonzalez has hit rock bottom – and done it early.”

At issue is a new TV ad running in the south Sarasota County region of Osprey, Venice and of North Port and Englewood, where Gonzalez, a Venice orthopedic surgeon, took aim at the Nokomos Republican for his brief service in the United States Marine Corps.

DeNapoli, the 30-second spot says, focuses on a time the candidate served – for a short period – in the Marines. A serious injury sidelined his desire to serve in the military.

To support Gonzalez’s assertion is an email distributed in 2010 by A-Jay Eddy of the Gay Activist Log Cabin Republicans of Broward County, as well as an excerpt of a letter addressed to the Broward Republican Executive Committee.

Signed by DeNapoli, the letter seeks soliciting support for the BREC Treasurer position. The letter is also prominent on called www.thetruthaboutdenapolimarineservice.com, an attack website sponsored by Floridians For Liberty 2014, the group which also produced the ad.

In the email, DeNapoli wrote: “In my earlier career, I served in the United States Marine Corps, and while I don’t currently practice, I am a licensed attorney.” Later, in a South Florida Sun Sentinel article dated Nov. 2010, DeNapoli said he “spent a short period of time in the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidates School before being injured while training.”

A press release from Gonzalez on Monday, titled “Stolen Valor,” takes the claim to task, by pointing out DeNapoli actually attended in 2002 what is otherwise known as a “US Marines Mini-Officer Candidates School,” a three-day camp to give prospective Marines a taste of training in the Corps.

“It is not Officer Candidates School,” says Gonzalez, a Navy veteran.

In his response, DeNapoli makes it very clear about his short-lived service in the USMC.

“The truth is, I did,” he says, “but was given an Entry Level Separation (ELS) due to serious injury. I wish things had been different.”

ELS is defined as a discharge option available to commanders, given only to service members in entry-level status – within their first 180 days of continuous active military service.

Elegibility for an ELS means the commander did not have enough time to make a fair decision as to the overall service characterization.

“To call such service ‘Stolen Valor,’ as Julio desperately does, is offensive, untrue, and beyond the pale,”DeNapoli adds.

The Republican primary in House District 74 is Aug. 26.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.