Gun control mailer could have major impact in FL race

Just not in the way the senders were hoping for. When Democrats sent out a campaign flyer featuring Republican state Senate candidate Corey Simon, they were hoping to make hay over his support for the Second Amendment. Instead, his opponent and the Democratic campaign committee that produced the mailer are now the subject of growing criticism by civil rights activists and black Republicans, who say the flyer’s imagery has dangerous and racist implications.

This isn’t the first time we’ve written about this particular topic, but the controversy seems to be growing instead of settling down, at least in part because state Sen. Lorrane Ausley and the Democrats who sent out the flyer are telling conflicting stories about whether or not the candidate actually authorized its release.

While they’re trying to get their stories straight, Republicans are more than happy to call out the racist nature of the campaign mailer, which featured Simon on a shooting target with empty shell casings on the floor below.

Simon’s campaign, local Republicans, the Senate President-designate and a Tallahassee-area pastor have already denounced the ad, which was put together by a campaign arm of Senate Democrats run by Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book. On Thursday, Deltona Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby and Seminole Republican House candidate Berny Jacques, both of whom are Black men, became the latest to come to Simon’s defense.

“The divisive, ignorant use of a Black man for target practice has no place in civil political discourse,” Barnaby and Jacques said in their joint statement.

“We hope that members of the Florida Black Caucus will join us in condemning this mailer, and those who approved its creation and distribution. We may not see eye-to-eye on everything, but surely we can agree that political disagreement should never include dangerous imagery of a Black man being used for target practice.”

On one side, the mailer contains cutouts of children backed by targets with bullet holes.

“Don’t let extremists like Corey Simon turn our schools into shooting ranges,” the ad reads.

On the flip side, the ad shows a picture of Simon displayed on a target stand. The ad, paid for by the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, includes a disclaimer mentioning support for Ausley, fellow Sen. Janet Cruz and Miami Senate candidate Janelle Perez.

“The dangerous, racist implications of this kind of imagery are unconscionable,” Barnaby and Jacques said. “To think that Florida Democrats Lauren Book, Loranne Ausley, Janet Cruz, Janelle Perez and God only knows how many consultants, staff and lawyers participated in and approved this hateful garbage underscores the partisan hypocrisy behind these Florida Democrats’ Black Lives Matter rhetoric.”

Even leaving the racial component out of this I can’t fathom why Democrats thought this would be a good idea, though I completely get why they believed they could get away with it without causing controversy. If Simon had put Ausley’s face on a shooting target to highlight her support for gun control the media in Florida would have erupted in outrage over the “violent and disturbing imagery.” Put a Republican’s face on a target in an attempt to shame him for supporting the Second Amendment, on the other hand, and most of the legacy media will keep quiet.

So far neither Ausley nor the campaign committee that produced the ad have apologized for it, and in fact the two are still telling different stories about whether or not she approved it before it was released, as is apparently required under Florida election law.

Ausley — who is perhaps the most vulnerable Senate Democrat seeking re-election in a cycle where Democrats need to hold every seat to deny Senate Republicans a three-fifths majority — was asked about the mailer during a debate with Simon on Monday.

“I have no control over what they send out,” Ausley said. “I do not prefer these campaign tactics, I don’t think either of us do, but neither of us can control them.”

However, the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee told Florida Politics it has written approvals from Ausley and the two other Democrats named in the ad. The committee has not returned a request to present those approvals, a request that was sent before the debate.

With Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis looking like he’s going to cruise to re-election, having that 3/5ths majority won’t be crucially important in order to pass, say, Constitutional Carry, though it’s possible that some moderate Republicans may refuse to go along. In that case, adding to the GOP’s majority in both the state Senate and House would definitely make it easier to put strong, pro-Second Amendment and self-defense language into law… and the Florida Democrats’ disturbing flyer that literally targets Corey Simon could end up backfiring on the anti-gunners in a big way.