'This is our Paris': Florida U.S. Senate candidates react to Orlando nightclub shooting
The eight Republican and Democratic contenders for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat were quick to weigh in this morning on social media about the deadliest mass shooting in American history, which happened overnight at an Orlando nightclub.
Most offered measured responses for thoughts and prayers, while one spoke of her support for gun control and another laid definitive -- but yet unproven -- blame for the gunman's motive.
Republican candidate Carlos Beruff called the tragedy "an evil act of a radical Islamic terrorist in Orlando." He added: "Thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families this morning."
As of this morning, local, state and federal authorities were still investigating the gunman and his potential motives. He has been identified as Omar Mateen, of Port St. Lucie. He is of Afghan descent. Investigators are exploring whether Mateen could have been self-radicalized, or had connections to overseas terrorism groups, the Miami Herald reported.
Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Pam Keith, of Miami, tweeted in the wake of the shooting: "I will NEVER cease advocating for measures that will reduce the number of Americans who die from gun violence." (Along a similar vein, the Florida League of Women Voters issued a call to action this morning, demanding better gun control laws in Florida.)
Democratic candidate and current U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson -- whose Orlando-based district is a few miles away from the Pulse nightclub where the shooting occurred -- called it a "terrorist attack" and posted information on his Facebook page about grief counseling services available to Orlando-area residents and the need for blood donations.
In a statement, Grayson said: "Our thoughts and our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the entire Orlando community. Words cannot express the horror, pain and sadness that we feel about this terrible loss. I commend the Orlando police for their heroic efforts to save the lives of those who could be saved."
Republican Todd Wilcox, an Orlando businessman, said he was "holding my girls a little closer this morning."
"Prayers for those impacted by the unspeakable act of terror in our hometown of Orlando," he tweeted.
Democratic Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy said he was "devastated by the news of the shooting in Orlando." Murphy represents northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, including Port St. Lucie where authorities say the gunman was from.
"My heart goes out to the victims, their friends and family, and all those affected by this horrifying tragedy, including those in the LGBT community," Murphy wrote on Facebook. "Orlando is stronger than this act of hate and evil. Thank you to our first responders for your brave and selfless actions."
Republican Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. David Jolly, of Indian Shores, said: "This is our Paris. Let us never forget -- and let us always resolve to confront and defeat terror at the hands of evil." He added: "As we await more information, let us all pray for Orlando victims and their loved ones."
Republican Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera tweeted: "Our prayers are with those and their families devastated by last night’s act of terror."
Added Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach in his own tweet: "My thoughts & prayers are with the victims, families & people of Orlando. Thanks to law enforcement who responded to this act of terror."