Two fathers who lost children in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre denounced attempts to attack a Republican state Senate candidate by depicting small children as shooting targets.
The website Florida’s Voice reported on Friday that the ads appeared in the Florida Senate District 3 race, where GOP challenger Corey Simon seeks to oust incumbent Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley. District 3 covers the Tallahassee area.
In the mailer, Simon’s image appears on what looks like a frame that would hold a shooting target. On the other side are the images of two small children and a woman who appears to be a teacher imposed over a target.
Bullet holes litter the targets, while the text of the ad notes, “Don’t let extremists like Corey Simon turn our schools into shooting ranges.” The ad also depicts a pistol, numerous bullets and a pair of goggles.
Florida’s Voice noted that the ad was paid for by the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, whose leader is South Florida Democratic Sen. Lauren Book.
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Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was slain in the 2018 Parkland massacre, criticized Book, Ausley, and Sen. Janet Cruz, and candidate Janelle Perez for the ad. All four were mentioned by name as being endorsed by Book’s group.
On Twitter, Pollack said, “This is not okay. This is never okay. You wrap your arms around Parkland for photo ops then treat children like political pawns.”
Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina also died in the Douglas High shooting, also denounced the ad.
“Disgusting. Shame on you [Florida Democrats]. Shame on those that funded this,” Petty tweeted. “This ad says more about you than it does about your political opponents.”
The ad, not surprisingly, was strongly and broadly criticized by Republicans.
Part of that criticism attacked the ad as racist, Florida’s Voice noted.
Simon, who was a football star at Florida State and in the NFL before serving as CEO of Volunteer Florida, is black.
Republican state Rep. Webster Barnaby and GOP House candidate Berny Jacques released a joint statement calling the mailer “divisive” and “ignorant.” They also said the image of a black man on a shooting target “has no place in civil political discourse.”
For his part, Simon agreed.
“This latest attack on me from my opponent put children on targets with gun shots, with gun holes in them. Put me on a target,” Simon said during a recent debate with Ausley.
“In this current environment where we just had a 40-year-old man run down an 18-year-old kid for his political stance, I think that is a bridge too far.”
Simon was referring to the North Dakota criminal case where a man has been charged with murder for running over and killing an 18-year-old, Cayler Ellingson, whom the suspect referred to as a “Republican extremist.”
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