Republican George Buck doesn’t want foreign-born citizens in his opponent

Amanda Makki's campaign responds: 'We don’t take anything George Buck says seriously.'
Republican candidates for Florida's 13th Congressional District George Buck (left) and Amanda Makki.
Republican candidates for Florida's 13th Congressional District George Buck (left) and Amanda Makki. [ Photos courtesy of campaigns for George Buck and Amanda Makki ]
Published Jul. 28, 2020|Updated Jul. 28, 2020

If it was up to Republican Congressional candidate George Buck, the leading candidate in his primary race would be disqualified from running. Why? Because she wasn’t born in the United States.

Buck on Monday tweeted that if elected he would propose a law or Constitutional amendment allowing only natural born citizens to serve in Congress. Such a restriction would mean Amanda Makki, an Iranian-born immigrant who has lived in the United States nearly all of her life, couldn’t represent Florida’s 13th Congressional District, the same office that she and Buck are seeking.

The most recent polling in the race shows Makki, who has significant support from national Republicans, ahead of Buck. She tops him in fundraising, too.

Related: Know Your Candidates: Review our voter guide for the 2020 primary

The sentiment wasn’t directed at Makki, Buck said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times, but he added: “Now that you mention it, Makki was born in Iran so this would apply to her once my law is passed.”

“I do think a natural born citizen requirement needs to apply to Congress and other public offices given all of the disloyalty to our country going on right now,” added Buck, 64.

In response to Buck’s tweet, Makki spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said, “We don’t take anything George Buck says seriously. He has already shown he is not a serious candidate and cannot beat (U.S. Rep.) Charlie Crist.” Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, defeated Buck handily in 2018.

Makki and Buck are in a five-person race for the opportunity to face Crist in November. The GOP primary is Aug. 18.

Buck, a veteran who worked as a firefighter, said his remarks Monday were directed at U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali-born Democrat from Minnesota. Last December, Buck called Omar a “Qatari asset” in a fundraising email that suggested traitors should be hung for treason. The remark drew a strong rebuke from National Republicans who then distanced themselves from Buck, though the publicity helped Buck register one of his best fundraising quarters of the campaign.

Related: George Buck's Ph.D is from a diploma mill. But candidate stands by his work

In his tweet, Buck said the Founders “knew what they were doing when they put the president natural born citizen clause in place.” He failed to acknowledge, however, that those same Founders decided against requiring the citizen clause for members of Congress.

Since its creation and throughout most of its existence, the U.S. Congress has included representatives born in other countries. About 10 percent of the members of the first Congress in 1789 were foreign born, according to the Pew Research Center.

Thirteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives and one in the U.S. Senate are naturalized citizens who emigrated from other countries, Pew found. They are all Democrats, meaning Makki could be the only foreign-born Republican in Congress if elected.

Makki, 42, is an ex-Congressional staffer who went on to represent a pharmaceutical company and other industries as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. until last year. She previously told the Times that her family fled religious persecution in Iran in 1979 when she was an infant. They sought political asylum in Charleston, S.C. A decade later, her family became naturalized citizens.

“We worked hard,” Makki said in a 2019 interview. “We did everything we could to ensure that we were good-serving people in this country.”

Related: Did Republican candidate Amanda Makki lobby for a liberal group? She denies it.

Makki in that interview emphasized that she came here “the legal way” and that she supported President Donald Trump’s policies targeting undocumented immigrants. In a new campaign ad, Makki accuses another District 13 primary opponent, Anna Paulina Luna, of supporting amnesty for undocumented immigrants because she suggested Congress should consider a solution for people who were brought to the country as children through non-legal methods.

Luna’s remarks came in an interview with the Trump-friendly BlazeTV, a conservative media network, near the White House. Luna, who also supports Trump’s immigration proposals, has the backing of several individuals in the president’s orbit, including U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz.