After hearing negative campaign messages about window-peepers, death panels and more, voters finally settled the political fracas to pick the Republican nominee in House District 74.
Venice orthopedic surgeon Julio Gonzalez defeated Nokomis attorney and former Broward County Republican Party treasurer Richard DeNapoli by about 15 points, capping off one of the most acrimonious— and expensive — campaigns in the state.
DeNapoli conceded at 7:45 p.m.
Gonzalez, a Navy veteran, had his work cut out for him from the start.
First, citing the Affordable Care Act and President Barack Obama’s re-election as reasons to enter the race, Gonzalez followed it with a statement that the president’s re-election was one of the most distressing times of his life, comparable to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Next came the news of a $500 donation to liberal Democratic National Committee chair U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Gonzalez claimed it was to secure a meeting to discuss the “evils” of Obamacare.
Then came revelations that a local political blogger close to Gonzalez’s campaign spied through the bushes at DeNapoli’s new home in an attempt to verify that the new South Sarasota resident was indeed not living in the district.
Soon after that, there was the discovery that Gonzalez’s book, Health Care Reform: The Truth, contained passages decrying public spending on extended medical care for “futile cases,” and advocating a system that his critics likened to the “death panels” Obamacare opponents predicted would be instituted.
A big help came from outside the district in the form of attack ads against DeNapoli produced by PACs associated with the pro-Gonzalez Florida Medical Association. Eventually, the doctor was able to shake the label of “Doctor Death Panel.”
Gonzalez even benefited from several high profile endorsements, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a fellow Cuban-American whose family fled the Fidel Castro regime in the 1960s.
Gonzalez is the South Sarasota County’s de facto “conservative,” as the Republican nominee for the seat vacated by term-limited Rep. Doug Holder. It was an impressive race, especially since he did not have to rely on loans in a campaign that reached more than $700K combined.
For Gonzalez, the race to Tallahassee is not over yet — but it might as well be. Facing not one, but two write-in candidates in November for the heavily Republican district, he is sure to become the next representative from HD 74.