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  1. Florida Politics

Rep. Ed Narain, Augie Ribeiro trade barbs at Tiger Bay

Augie Ribeiro answers a question during the Tiger Bay Club event. Mailers sent by Ribeiro that questioned Narain’s campaign donors led to debate Friday.
Augie Ribeiro answers a question during the Tiger Bay Club event. Mailers sent by Ribeiro that questioned Narain’s campaign donors led to debate Friday.
Published Aug. 20, 2016

TAMPA — Tensions flared among Florida State Senate District 19 candidates during a joint appearance Friday, just 11 days before what's expected to be a close Democratic primary vote to replace Arthenia Joyner.

The field includes two current state representatives and a former representative, along with a self-funded political newcomer.

Rep. Ed Narain of Tampa and lawyer Augie Ribeiro of St. Petersburg exchanged verbal blows during the Tampa Tiger Bay Club appearance, most of them focusing on a spate of campaign mailers Ribeiro sent painting Narain as a Republican based on his campaign donors.

Narain has received more than $40,000 from insurance companies and more than $34,000 from utility companies.

Narain addressed the matter in his opening statement.

"You're probably getting the mailers saying I'm a Republican," Narain said. "That just isn't true."

Narain said he uses the same donor list as most other Democrats in the state, but that doesn't mean he is accountable to those sources.

"Just because you received a contribution from somebody doesn't mean they get to tell you how to vote or what to do," he said, answering a question about how donations influence candidates. "I reject the idea that any candidates are bought and sold. Those nasty mailers that are sent out … not only are they uncalled for, but they are dead wrong."

Ribeiro didn't back down, listing some of Narain's donors and comparing them to his.

"I've raised money through friends and family so I don't have to take the money from the special interests and corporations that I want to take down for the consumers," Ribeiro said. "The people should know that Mr. Narain took money from these corporations. …

"We need to keep our hands down on these costs, the insurance costs, the utility costs. These costs continue to rise, and someone needs to speak out against that."

Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg and former Rep. Betty Reed of Tampa stayed on the edge of the argument, occasionally stepping in to distinguish themselves.

"I've served in Tallahassee and when you take money from too many people they are going to be there waiting for you to be repaid," Reed said.

Narain also took a jab at Rouson, who repeated a talking point in his campaign — that he is the only Democrat to pass gun legislation in Florida since 1987. Rouson sponsored legislation that forbids anyone in the state from shooting a weapon in a neighborhood where there is at least one home per acre.

"No disrespect to the representative, but the last gun control bill passed by the Florida Legislature was passed by a Democrat," Narain said. "That was Barbara Watson in 2013, and that bill restricted those with mental illnesses from being able to purchase a firearm."

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

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