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73 Florida House Republicans send letter backing Judge Kavanaugh. Two from Tampa Bay didn’t sign.

House GOP members urge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to confirm him to the U.S. Supreme Court.
President Trump with Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, his nominee for the Supreme Court, in the White House residence on Monday. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Published Sep. 20, 2018
Updated Sep. 21, 2018

All but two of the 75 Republicans in the Florida House have signed a letter calling for the U.S. Senate to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, calling his life and career "a model of civic virtue."

The letter, originated by House Speaker-Designate Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, went to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and three other senators Wednesday in advance of a key hearing set for next Monday.

The GOP lawmakers called on senators "and in particular, Sen. Bill Nelson, to confirm Judge Kavanaugh and allow him to begin his service as quickly as possible.

"Judge Kavanaugh is unquestionably qualified to be on the nation's highest court," the letter said, calling him "intelligent, qualified (and) respected."

The House Republicans' letter referred to attempts to portray Kavanaugh as an extremist, but made no mention of an accusation by a California woman, Christine Blasey Ford, that Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her while they were at a high school party in Maryland in the 1980s.

Kavanaugh has emphatically denied Ford's allegation.

"Recognize the truth, unify the country, confirm Judge Kavanaugh and show the American people that their government in Washington is not as broken as they fear," the letter ended.

Every House Republican signed the letter except for two, both from Tampa Bay.

Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, who faces a strong challenge from Democrat Fentrice Driskell in a competitive district, said it was an oversight that he didn't sign and it should not be interpreted as a sign that he opposes Kavanaugh's confirmation.

"I just never got to it and no one (in the House) ever followed up on it," Harrison told the Times/Herald. "Let it play out and let's see what happens on Monday."

Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, issued a statement to the Times/Herald that said: "While I believe Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed and the timing of this accusation is suspect, I think it's important to gather all the facts. That said, my focus as an elected state representative remains on working in a bipartisan fashion to protect our environment, improve our education system, address the opioid crisis and keep our taxes low."

Latvala's father, former Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, resigned last November amid charges that he sexually harassed a Senate staff member. A special master found probable cause that harassment occurred but a Florida prosecutor declined to file public corruption charges based on a separate complaint.

Among the Republicans who signed the letter supporting Kavanaugh's confirmation are Rep. Jeanette Núñez, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor; Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, the party's candidate for agriculture commissioner; and Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

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