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With less than three weeks to go until the August 30 primary, the battle over who will be Northwest Florida’s next state senator seems to be getting uglier by the day.

Now, a voicemail obtained by POLITICO Florida appears to have caught Rep. Doug Broxson threatening his opponent, Rep. Mike Hill, with the potential influx into the race of more funding from special interest groups in Tallahassee.

“I told you I would reach out to some of the folks that have become involved in this campaign,” Broxson says in the recording. “If you in fact do continue to run your negatives and frankly if there’s any additional self-funding going on, they’ve indicated to me that what they’ve done is just frankly a token of what they’re willing to do if things get out of control.”

Broxson doesn’t mention any groups by name in the voicemail, saying, “If I told you the organizations, you’d know who I’m talking about.”

“This latest bully tactic from Doug Broxson is a voicemail where he is happy to admit that he is bought and paid for by special interests,” Hill said Wednesday. “This kind of politics is about government to the highest bidder, not principled conservative leadership for taxpayers.”

The unnamed groups are “watching and waiting,” Broxson said in the message. “Hopefully we can let some of those resources stay in Tallahassee for some races that are being contested other places,” he said.

Rep. Mike Hill, R–Pensacola Beach, is running against Broxson for the State Senate. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

Rep. Mike Hill, R–Pensacola Beach, is running against Broxson for the State Senate. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

Broxson did not respond to a request for comment, but in a statement to POLITICO Florida, he denied any coordination with the political action committees supporting his campaign, which would be prohibited under state election law. “I have not talked to any groups, and I have no influence or control over them,” Broxson told POLITICO.

As we noted last month, Broxson has received more than $50,000 from political action committees and other special interests groups, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has also given nearly $40,000 to a political action committee called the Conservative Leadership Fund. The PAC, which is registered to a mailbox at a Tallahassee-area UPS Store, has spent thousands on Broxson’s behalf in recent months. Mailers as well as TV and radio ads paid for by the PAC have focused on Hill’s vote earlier this year to deny Governor Rick Scott’s request for $250 million for corporate tax incentives.

Hill and 27 other House Republicans broke with party leadership in February to vote against the measure, which Hill called a watered-down “crony capitalism bill” that didn’t have enough return on investment for taxpayers. Broxson voted in favor of the $250 million request.

A pro-Broxson, anti-Hill mailer paid for by the Conservative Leadership Fund, a Tallahassee-based political action committee funded by Florida's business lobby. (Special to The Pulse)

A pro-Broxson, anti-Hill mailer paid for by the Conservative Leadership Fund, a Tallahassee-based political action committee funded by Florida’s business lobby. (Special to The Pulse)

“Mike Hill put workers in an unemployment line,” reads one of the pro-Broxson mailers paid for by the Conservative Leadership Fund. “Not trusted by our business leaders and job champions,” says another.

The sharp rhetoric aside, Hill and Broxson have largely similar voting records on economic issues, and both men received an “A” grade on the Chamber’s 2016 “Legislative Report Card.” Many of the concerns voiced by Hill and others over the $250 million for Enterprise Florida were validated in May after a two-month internal review called the agency “top heavy.” The review cited overspending on office space and travel and found that the agency lacked the internal controls necessary to prevent fraud.

With no Democrats and two write-in candidates vying for the Senate seat — which is being vacated by State Sen. Greg Evers, who is running for Congress — the race is all but certain to be decided by the August 30 Republican primary. An April poll conducted by “Citizens for a Just Government” found Broxson leading a hypothetical three-way race with Hill and State Rep. Clay Ingram, who opted not to run for the seat. In July, Hill’s campaign released internal polling which showed Hill with an 18-point lead over Broxson.

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