TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Democrat state senator Loranne Ausley’s comments on Monday concerning a negative ad targeting her GOP opponent are not consistent with what her party’s campaign committee reportedly claims.
The advertisement, now under public scrutiny, shows a photo of Ausley’s District 3 Republican challenger Corey Simon on a target with an assault rifle and loose rounds of ammunition beneath it. The other side of the ad (pictured above) has stock images of children on targets and reads “Don’t let extremists like Corey Simon our schools into shooting ranges.”
The ad’s imagery and accompanying text are apparently intended to draw attention to Simon’s views on gun legislation and school safety, but Republicans are calling it racially insensitive.
“IRRESPONSIBLE AND DANGEROUS”
“Think about the dangerous history of using images of black men for target practice in this country,” Erin Isaac, Simon’s campaign spokesperson, told City & State Florida. “You can’t just be an ally when it’s convenient, Loranne. It helps if you do the right thing, even when it doesn’t serve your needs.”
Simon, a former NFL and FSU football star, called the ad “irresponsible and dangerous,” in a tweet. Others weighed in on Twitter, calling out what they consider a double standard for black conservatives.
“I find it disgraceful that Democrats like @LoranneAusley think it’s okay to mail out campaign material with @csime90’s face on a target to shoot & that the media refuses [to] cover stuff like this! The hate Black conservatives face from the Left and the media is unreal,” tweeted Javon A. Price, a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds.
When Ausley was asked about the ad during a debate at the Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee on Monday, she said, “I have no control over what [the Democratic party] send out. I do not prefer these campaign tactics, I don’t think either of us do, but neither of us can control them.” Video of Ausley’s response can be seen here.
DID AUSLEY APPROVE THE MESSAGE?
The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee claims they received Ausley’s “written approval,” along with two others named in the ad disclaimer: State Senator Janet Cruz and Senate District 38 candidate Janelle Perez. The committee is led by Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book.
On Monday, Florida Politics reported on a complaint filed last week with the Florida Elections Commission by Evan Power, Leon County Republican Party Chairman and Florida Republican Party Chairman of Chairs. In the article, Claire VanSusteren, a spokesperson for the Democratic committee, went on the offensive when asked about the complaint and attempted to paint GOP officials out to be the racist villains.
“The Florida Republican Legislative Campaign Committee is clearly attempting to divert attention from their own racist policies that erase Black history from our classrooms and take away our rights,” VanSusteren said. “The Republican Party is trying to hide their dangerous record that hurts Florida families by engaging in gotcha moments. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has written approvals from respective candidates and the appropriate disclaimer has been deployed.”
VanSusteren did not respond to a request for comment. Ausley called the ad “poorly done,” but would not answer The Florida Standard’s questions about whether or not she had approved it.
“My opponent Corey Simon and the Republican Party have views on guns that are dangerous to North Florida. Because of this fact, they are diverting the conversation to a poorly done mailer,” Ausley said in a text message. “Meanwhile, parents are afraid to send their kids to school and, as we learned in the debate, Corey Simon won’t tell the voters one thing he will do to change that. I trust the voters to make a decision about which issue is more important to keeping our schools and kids safe.”
SENATE PRESIDENT RESPONDS
Senate President Designate Kathleen Passidomo called for Book to denounce the ad and fire VanSusteren for her comments.
“Minority Leader Book should remove her spokesperson for making statements on her behalf that attempt to blame Corey Simon for the blatantly divisive use of racially motivated imagery that puts the life of a future colleague in danger,” Passidomo said in a statement.
“The hypocrisy of these Florida Democrats who claim to support Black lives, yet yield to their worst instincts simply because they don’t agree with him politically, says a lot more about their character than it ever could about Corey Simon,” she added.