Amanda Makki jumps into Florida District 13 House race

Makki, a Republican strategist, ran for the seat in 2020 but lost in the Republican primary to Anna Paulina Luna.
Amanda Makki stands at the podium during an event at Largo Central Park, to announce her run for Congress, Tuesday, July 20, 2021 in Largo.
Amanda Makki stands at the podium during an event at Largo Central Park, to announce her run for Congress, Tuesday, July 20, 2021 in Largo. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published July 20, 2021|Updated July 21, 2021

Amanda Makki, who ran in the 2020 Republican primary against Anna Paulina Luna for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, has announced she’s going up against Luna for the same U.S. House seat again.

Makki, a former Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist, announced her candidacy Tuesday at the Central Park Performing Arts Center in Largo.

She’s the latest candidate to announce their intentions for the competitive seat being vacated by Rep. Charlie Crist, who is running for governor. The 13th District covers the southern half of Pinellas County.

Makki, who appeared at one point in 2020 to be the Republican frontrunner, lost to Luna by about 7 percentage points in the Republican primary. Crist, a Democrat and the incumbent, beat Luna in the general election. In the primary, Makki got support from House Republicans while Luna got backing from devotees of then-President Donald Trump.

On Monday, Makki made a point of mentioning her longstanding support for Trump and that she worked as an attorney for the 2020 Trump recount efforts in Wisconsin.

Makki said Republicans may need to only flip five seats to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. She said the country has gone backward since President Joe Biden took office, and that Republicans need to make their voice and agenda heard.

“Florida’s 13th District, make no mistake, this is ground zero,” Makki said. “This is the road to taking back the house, Pinellas County.”

Before working as a health care lobbyist, Makki previously worked for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Makki was born in Iran, but her family moved to the United States when Makki was young to avoid religious persecution.

She emphasized that she and her parents are proud legal immigrants, but said undocumented immigrants entering the United States are a threat. Makki visited the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico earlier in July.

Makki also talked Monday about hearing concerns from voters about the economy, strengthening election security, protecting gun rights and limiting abortions.

Makki and Luna are the only two Republicans in the race. William Braddock dropped out last month after Luna obtained an injunction against him following a phone call in which Braddock appears to be secretly recorded saying he has access to a Ukrainian-Russian “hit squad” and suggesting Luna might be “taken out.”

Makki’s name came up as part of Luna’s injunction, with Luna writing that, based on the information she received, Braddock had said he was working alongside other political rivals, including Makki.

However, Luna never petitioned for an injunction against Makki, and a St. Petersburg Police Department investigation into the reported threats mentions only that Makki said she barely knows Braddock and never heard him make a threat. Makki’s attorney has since reached out to Luna’s counsel, demanding they either send all evidence supporting the claim that Makki was involved in the conspiracy or issue a retraction and apology. Makki said her attorney never got a response.

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During Monday’s announcement, state Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, gave a hearty endorsement of Makki, noting it could be an opportunity to gain a seat in Congress. He said Makki was a true supporter of Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Makki called Luna a “phony” who had supported former President Barack Obama.

State Reps. Ben Diamond and Michele Rayner are running in the Democratic primary for the District 13 seat, along with national security advisor Eric Lynn and Macy’s Inc. service representative Christian Hotchkiss.

Frank Craft, a business owner, is running as a Libertarian.

Clarification: Amanda Makki worked in Washington, D.C., for Sen. Lisa Murkowski before becoming a health care lobbyist. An earlier version of the story was unclear on this point.