National Rifle Association icon Marion Hammer made it clear Thursday morning that she vehemently opposes the candidacy of Heather Fitzenhagen in her quest for the Republican nomination for Senate in District 27 in southwest Florida on the grounds that Fitzenhagen, a moderate, is betraying Republicans and may choose to side with Democrats if elected.
Hammer smashed Fitzenhagen in an email blasted that landed in tens of thousands of inboxes belonging to passionate gun owners and GOP voters, accusing Fitzenhagen of stabbing Republicans in the back by pledging support for anti-gun Democrat Gary Farmer. And it’s not the first time Fitzenhagen has run afoul of the NRA and its members.
“At a time when Republicans can be happy that they will have a true Republican [a reference to Wilton Simpson] taking office as Senate President, why would Heather Fitzenhagen do the unthinkable?” Hammer wrote in the email blast. “Is it simply that she is Florida’s own version of Nancy Pelosi who has been waiting to expose herself as a Democrat when she could benefit personally from the exposure?”
Hammer’s accusation is based several pieces of evidence against Fitzenhagen, the most recent of which is Fitzenhagen’s late entry into the District 27 Senate race when Ray Rodriguez appeared to have a clear path to the GOP nomination. Rodriguez is backed by Wilton Simpson, but Fitzenhagen suddenly changed plans after dropping out of a race for Congress when it became clear that her moderate record meant she stood little chance of winning over skeptical Republican voters.
Her newly launched campaign instantly started stirring up trouble for Florida’s Republicans, with Fitzenhagen attacking not only Rodriguez, but Simpson, too.
Hammer’s allegation in the email about Fitzenhagen’s “betrayal” stems from a rumored pledge to support Democrat Gary Farmer for Senate President if the Democrats are lucky enough to win enough seats to need Fitzenhagen as the tie-breaker. As the rumor went, Fitzenhagen would be willing to switch her vote to support Farmer in exchange for a more prominent role in the Senate.
When confronted by Politico on the matter, Fitzenhagen’s qualified response to the question was seen by many as a sign of likely betrayal. Here’s the relevant excerpt from the POLITICO story:
Fitzenhagen, an attorney, said she would be “inclined” to vote for Simpson.
“I have not said anything about who I will vote for, but as a Republican, I would strongly be inclined to vote for Simpson,” Fitzenhagen told POLITICO on Tuesday.
Democrats are three seats from a 20-20 split in the in the Florida Senate in 2020. Still, it’s an uphill climb given Republicans’ cash advantage going into November.
But if Democrats can come close enough for Fitzenhagen’s vote to matter, she could hand them control of the chamber.
It’s an unlikely scenario, but speculation about its potential has mounted after Fitzenhagen’s surprise last-minute entrance into the race.
Despite telling POLITICO she is inclined to vote for Simpson, Fitzenhagen blasted him on Monday in a press release touting an internal poll that showed her with a 10-point lead over Rodrigues.
“Gun owners and Second Amendment supporters were alarmed and feared when Heather Fitzenhagen voted for a massive gun control bill in 2018 that she was a fake Republican and that it wasn’t “a one-time-thing,” said Hammer. “Well, now we know – her later actions have confirmed that she’s a betrayer who can’t be trusted. Forewarned is forearmed and people know that their vote is their power and protection against betrayal.”
The primary contest between Rodriguez and Fitzenhagen will be decided in August. The winner will run as a Republican in the November general election.