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Matt Gaetz ad boasts role in “fixing” penalties for sex offenders

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Shalimar Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz released a new ad Tuesday that trumpets his role in passing tougher penalties on sex offenders in 2014.

“I’m Matt Gaetz, and I’ll always fight to protect our kids,” the Senate District 1 candidate said in the video. “The system was broken, so I led the fight to fix it,”

The 2014 sex offender bill package Gaetz is referring to – SB522, SB524, SB526 and SB528 – passed both chambers with unanimous support near the start of the 2014 Legislative Session and got a signature from Gov. Rick Scott a few weeks later.

“When I became Chairman of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, our justice system had failed our kids. In 2013 an 8-year-old girl was abducted, raped and murdered by a violent sexual predator who had just been released from prison,” Gaetz said in the ad announcement. “Reforming our criminal justice system became my top priority, and I led the fight to crack down on these monsters that prey upon our most vulnerable citizens.

Though the Senate versions made it into law, the Gaetz-chaired House Criminal Justice Subcommittee sponsored the House version of Sen. Rob Bradley’s SB526, which increased the mandatory minimum sentences for violent sexual offenders to 50 years, with no opportunity for an early release.

The Gaetz commercial comes one day after his opponent in the SD1 race, Bay County Commissioner George Gainer, released his own commercial touting his conservative credibility. Gaetz’s commercial, which says he’s played a role in getting some legislation passed, ignores the back and forth with Gainer and highlights his work as a lawmaker. Whether championing a noncontroversial bill in his committee is considered leading the fight, though, is up to SD1’s voters.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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