Florida conservatives likely heading to Congress, thanks to DeSantis

representing Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a close ally of former President Donald Trump, has endorsed two of the MAGA-style Republicans running for Congress, State Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Howey-in-the-Hills) and Air Force veterinarian Anna Paulina Luna, saying they “are the backup I need for the America First agenda to succeed in Congress.”

The full effects of the redistricting won’t be known until after the November midterms, but Florida is on track to send at least six new members to Congress this year, including four from strong or Republican-leaning districts that have redone as part of a redesign of the layout. These Republicans are much closer to Trump than to the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthywho could be the next speaker if the GOP takes over the chamber.

DeSantis’ redistricting push ensures Florida’s congressional delegation will be more Republican for years to come, meaning the once-reliable swing state will continue to trend red.

Democrats have complained loudly about the new redistricting map but their legal challenges to block the changes ahead of this year’s election have not been successful, although litigation is ongoing.

“That’s exactly what DeSantis wanted to accomplish with his extreme, racist gerrymander: send dangerous far-right candidates to Congress who will push the Republicans’ radical agenda,” said Nebeyatt Betre, spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. .

One of the bitterest primaries was the battle for Florida’s 7th congressional district, with the Central Florida seat vacated by the Democratic representative. Stephanie Murphy. The seat is expected to swing due to the redistricting and it has sparked a fierce primary campaign between a wide field of eight candidates, including Sabatini, a conservative member of the Legislative Assembly who has called for an audit of Florida’s 2020 election results and said last year “we don’t know if [Biden’s] really president.

Sabatini also said that “I will not vote for Kevin McCarthy” as president if the Republicans take over the House.

Cory Mills, a military veteran and defense contractor, is also vying for the seat. Mills attended a “Stop the Steal” rally shortly after the November 2020 election and told the Orlando Sentinel that he does not consider Biden a legitimate president. Mills’ company also sold tear gas that was used against Black Lives Matters protesters, a fact he addressed with a digital ad in which he swore, “If the media wants to shed real tears , I can help them with that.”

Luna, a former Air Force veteran who once worked for Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA, is the frontrunner in Florida’s 13th congressional district, with a Pinellas County seat being vacated by Rep. charlie christ (D-Fla.), who is running for governor. Crist beat Luna in 2020, but the district became more Republican due to redistricting. Trump also endorsed it.

In the summer of 2021, Luna claimed that a handful of her political rivals were engaged in a plot to kill her. In a unique Florida moment, Kevin Hayslett, an attorney who represented one of those rivals Luna was seeking a harassment injunction against, shows up for the seat. Hayslett won the endorsement of leading Pinellas County Republicans such as House Speaker Chris Sprows and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

Recent polls show Luna with a solid lead, but Hayslett slammed Luna for her past support of former President Barack Obama – which was documented during her first run in 2020 – and circulated an excerpt from an old interview where she said she supported Obama’s immigration policies. . Last week, Club for Growth Action purchased or reserved $2 million worth of Luna booster ads.

Two other open seats brought in more traditional Republican candidates.

State Sen. Aaron Bean, who sponsored immigration legislation pushed by DeSantis that penalizes companies that transport undocumented minors to states across the country, is set to win Florida’s 4th congressional district primary in the north -East Florida. Bean said he would work with McCarthy if elected.

His primary rival, Erick Aguilar, was banned from WinRed, a fundraising platform popular with Republicans, after his campaign sent misleading emails suggesting donations were going to Trump and DeSantis.

And five Republicans are running for Florida’s 15th congressional district, including former DeSantis secretary of state Laurel Lee and state senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), who was chair of the powerful appropriations committee. of the State Senate and sponsored Florida’s new abortion law. and its ban on transgender female athletes from competing in women’s sports.

Some incumbent Republicans also face challenges from MAGA-style conservatives. representing Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), faces a primary from Laura Loomer, the far-right activist who was endorsed by Trump confidant Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who has was suspended from Twitter last year for posting QAnon content.

Loomer, who the latest campaign reports outplayed Webster, lambasted Webster for missing votes, including Trump’s second impeachment, and suggested he was not a true conservative.

Webster, who voted against certifying votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, dismissed Loomer’s criticism.

“If anyone has a problem with my voting record, then with all due respect, it’s not a conservative who believes in limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, empowerment of family and low taxes,” Webster said in a statement.

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