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Negative ad blitz sank Matt Hudson in Senate District 28

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

A barrage of negative advertising was likely a key contributor to Rep. Matt Hudson’s defeat in Senate District 28.

A Naples Republican and longtime state legislator, Hudson entered the race to replace Sen. Garrett Richter with a massive fundraising lead. Ultimately, he raised nearly $1.5 million between his official campaign account and political committee. But the war chest wasn’t enough to beat back the effects of a negative ad blitz, funded largely by groups with ties to the Florida Medical Association.

Hudson faced Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican who had the backing of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the FMA, in SD 28. Passidomo won the primary with 57 percent of the vote, and faces no serious opposition in November. Hudson received 42 percent of the ballot.

While outside political committees went after both candidates, the attacks on Hudson appeared to pack a bigger punch. Two groups — “Better Florida Fund” and “Floridians for Economic Opportunity” — sent out nearly a dozen mailers, painting Hudson as “not a conservative.”

In conservative Southwest Florida, that label could be viewed as the kiss of death. So could ties to Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor turned Democrat. And “Better Florida Fund” and “Floridians for Economic Opportunity” did take advantage.

Take, for example, one of the first mailers “Better Florida Fund” sent to Southwest Florida Republicans. The mailer shows an illustration of Hudson appearing to be asleep in bed, with the text “at night, Matt Hudson dreams of big spending” next to him.

“Matt Hudson voted for Charlie Crist’s bloated budgets, fought for Crist’s $2.4 billion high-speed train boondoggle, and supported his excessive spending of our tax dollars,” the mailer reads.

Not mentioned in the mailer? Current House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, former Speaker Will Weatherford, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera all voted for the 2009 bill that would have created the framework for high-speed rail.

“Better Florida Fund” also ran radio spots accusing Hudson of teaming up with Crist to raise taxes.

Hudson’s campaign team dismissed attack ads questioning his conservatism throughout the campaign. In a statement earlier this month, campaign spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said Hudson was “clearly the more conservative candidate in the race, and regardless how you measure, all the evidence backs it up.”

Since 2014, the FMA has been the main contributor to the “Better Florida Fund.” In the past three two months, the FMA and affiliated organizations gave $150,000. The only other donation in 2016 came from the Florida Hospital Association Management Corp.

The FMA and affiliated committees also gave $100,000 to “Floridians for Economic Opportunity” in 2016; while the Florida Hospital Association Management Corp. gave the committee $50,000.

It’s not entirely surprising the FMA came out against Hudson. The FMA endorsed Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. Hudson opposed it, and as the chairman of the House health care appropriations subcommittee, helped block efforts to expand Medicaid in Florida. He even testified before Congress about the effects he said it could have in the state.

Hudson’s loss marks the end of a long legislative career. First elected in 2007, he rose to the position of House speaker pro tempore under Crisafulli. He spent much of his time in the Legislature as the chairman of the health care appropriations subcommittee.

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