The prospects for Democrats continue to be dark, and the desperation is beginning to show.
In Florida, Republican prospects in the upcoming election are looking strong. Polls show Governor Ron DeSantis is poised to win with a double-digit lead over Charlie Crist. In a highly-touted race for the Senate, Marco Rubio leads Democrat Rep. Val Demmings, who has spent heavily on advertising in the state. In fact, the lone Democrat in any statewide position is Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, but as she is stepping down, it looks like that post is ready to be flipped .
A sign of just how nervous Democrats have become can be seen in this bit of campaign desperation in a state senate race in the panhandle. In Florida Senate District-3, incumbent Loranne Ausley is being challenged by Republican Corey Simon, a black man who has worked in the DeSantis organization. Despite being in a Democrat district that Joe Biden took by 9 points in 2020, things have taken a dark turn.
To frame things properly, think back over the years about how often gun imagery has been said to be inflammatory and the cause of gun violence. Idiotically, the Gabby Giffords shooting in Arizona was claimed to be inspired by a Sarah Palin election graphic that placed crosshairs on a map to depict districts being the focus of campaign efforts. Currently, President Biden and many in the press are making stark claims about conservatives and “MAGA Nation” members being the source of violent commentary.
This all makes a current issue in Florida rather remarkable.
A campaign mailer has been sent out to voters, insisting Simon is somehow beholden to the gun lobby, and the way this has been displayed is deeply questionable. An image of Simon’s face is shown on a target, with a gun and shell casings strewn at the bottom of the graphic. Adding to the tastelessness is more imagery, this time implying children are endangered in schools because Simon has supported school resource officers on campuses. Elementary-aged kids are shown on bulls-eye targets with bullet holes.
“Don’t let Corey Simon turn our schools into shooting ranges”, reads the ad copy.
The disturbing mailers have understandably come under criticism, and Loranne Ausley has attempted to distance herself from these distributed mailers.
“Our campaign is not responsible for the mail piece. … That was sent out by the Democratic Party. I have no control over what they send out.”
While this is technically accurate, it is also technically running up against campaign laws.
The pieces were sent out by the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, operated by the state Democratic Party Senate leader. It is a mailer designed to support a number of races throughout Florida, as these types of ads from the party are permissible without counting as a direct contribution to a candidate. This has led to possible legal entanglements.
State election law allows for these types of mailers or campaign commercials, but that is with the stipulation that the individual candidates give prior approval for their content. If Ausley was unaware then the mailer would violate the law. However, a spokesperson has stated the FLDCC “has written approvals from respective candidates and the appropriate disclaimer has been deployed.”
As the intraparty squabble is being hashed out what is notable is the lack of a larger wave of media outrage over graphics. Normally this kind of display would be greeted with claims of “racism!”, and/or the accusation that it is inspiring violence. Also not seen is the media clamoring for other candidates to be publicly challenged to repudiate these offensive campaign images. The common practice of broad culpability is somehow not at play.
Clearly, the party involved is cause for a muted reaction. Meanwhile, these actions underscore a broader issue of the Democrats facing challenges at a uniquely high level.