RPOF Injects Sanctuary Cities into Special Election



A new mailer from the Republican Party of Florida looks to make immigration a central issue to a special election in Sarasota, but opponents are labeling the attack a scare tactic pushing an agenda not of interest to voters. 

The mailer hit mailboxes this week and includes an absentee ballot application for the Feb. 13 special election for State House in District 72, as well as the message: “Help Governor Rick Scott stop the liberals from making Sarasota and the rest of Florida a sanctuary from illegal aliens.” The mailer’s return address identifies the Republican Party of Sarasota as the source. 

Candidates to represent the district include Republican James Buchanan, Democrat Margaret Good and Libertarian Alison Foxall.

Buchanan campaign manager Nick Catroppo would not say if the campaign knew the mailer would be coming out but said voters care about this issue. “James and volunteers have heard from residents that illegal immigration and illegal aliens, especially those committing crimes, is an issue that needs to be addressed,” he says. “James will fight to make sanctuary cities illegal and stop the federal government from re-settling refugees from dangerous areas in Florida.” Republican Party of Sarasota Chairman Joe Gruters says the mailer highlights the importance of electing a conservative to represent Sarasota in Tallahassee. “James Buchanan will be a fighter to stop sanctuary cities in the state of Florida,” says Gruters. “Liberals in Tallahassee have consistently blocked Republican efforts to push that through.” And both said Good would contribute to the problem. “Margaret's bought and paid for by the liberal leadership in Tallahassee who oppose banning sanctuary cities like we saw this past legislative session,” Catroppo says.

Good responded to the mailer on Facebook with her own absentee ballot push. “Are you sick and tired of the Republicans in power using hate and fear to gain votes? I know I am,” she wrote, before encouraging voters to sign up online to receive a mail-in ballot. Good Campaign Manager Kevin Lata says voters in the district are more concerned with protecting the environment and expanding Medicaid. He wouldn’t address whether Good supported a strict ban on cities becoming sanctuary cities. But he did say Good would offer an alternative to hard-liners. “When it comes to immigration, you have a lot of people like Dreamers, who came to country when they were very young,” Lata says. “At the federal government level, these folks are being deported, Margaret doesn’t believe in that. She believes immigrants form the backbone and they are what makes Sarasota and what makes Florida a great place to live. What James Buchanan and Rick Scott are doing is using people’s economic anxiety and fear of others to win votes.”

For Foxall’s part, she says the immigration subject isn’t even relevant to a Florida legislative race because so much immigration policy is set at the federal level. She did say both parties are failing on the matter, with liberals favoring a welfare state that incentivizes immigrants to come here for entitlements while conservatives try and deny individuals equal opportunity for career advancement. “I am not for or against sanctuary cities and think the entire premise is out of order,” she says. “The problem is the government is running from the top down and it’s making both sides of the political divide pretty anxious.” She also said her campaign would not employ scare tactics on this or any issue over the course of the race.

This isn’t the first time Republicans have tried to stir turnout in a race through utilizing the sanctuary cities issue. Before Sarasota city elections in May, party leaders, in an effort to get voters to support Republic Martin Hyde, focused on a debate statement by Democrat Jennifer Ahearn-Koch saying if the issue came up, she’d research and consider Sarasota's options regarding becoming a sanctuary city. Ultimately, Ahearn-Koch beat Hyde comfortably, but in the Democratic bastion of the City of Sarasota. District 72 overlaps with the city, but mostly includes an area outside the city limits, and Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district.

Photo of mailer provided by Margaret Good campaign.

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