William March: Post by Hillsborough County Republican Party compares Democrats to Nazis

The Facebook post was later deleted after a social media storm, including outrage from prominent local Republicans.
Jim Waurishuk, chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party. [Times (2016)]
Jim Waurishuk, chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party. [Times (2016)]
Published March 13

GOP’s Dem-Nazi slur stirs reaction

An incendiary Facebook post has once again created controversy for the Hillsborough County Republican Party — this time, one comparing Democrats to Nazis.

The post appeared on the party’s Facebook page and a similar tweet was sent from the party’s Twitter account last Thursday night.

“Democrats do a lot of projection with the word ‘Nazi,’ but it’s THEIR platform that resembles it, not Republicans,” the post and tweet said.

It went on to say that Democrats and Nazis both advocated “socialism,” “no guns,” “censorship,” “media mind control,” “abortion,” “hate Jews” and “worship the government.”

Both were deleted by the next afternoon after a social media storm including outrage from prominent Republicans.

“What idiot posted this garbage?” commented Clif Curry, a conservative East Hillsborough lawyer and political donor.

Curry said in an interview the post “minimized the horrors perpetrated by Nazis.”

“This is wrong, shameful and pathetic. Remove the tweet, apologize and find new leadership immediately,” tweeted Republican Mike Griffin, former Tampa Chamber of Commerce president and appointee of former Gov. Rick Scott to the Port Tampa Bay board.

Democratic State Attorney Andrew Warren also reacted, tweeting that it was “disgusting.”

President Donald Trump has since appeared to validate it, however. He told a crowd at a fundraiser last week, “The Democrats hate Jewish people,” according to an Axios report, and has since endorsed “Jexodus,” an organization led by GOP operatives urging Jews to leave the Democratic Party.

County GOP Chairman Jim Waurishuk said the post and tweet, which copied a chart circulating on the Internet, were an effort to “gauge how people respond to controversial issues” and “a test to garner people’s reactions.”

He said both were accompanied by a statement of that purpose, but screenshots captured by the Times and others didn’t include such a statement.

Waurishuk said another reason for the post was that, “The Democrat Party is forever projecting the Republicans as Nazis and fascists.”

Asked to cite an example of such rhetoric by a Democratic Party organization, he said, “Well, most of the time it’s their surrogates.”

Waurishuk, a former military intelligence officer, said the party would continue such posts as part of its “stratcom” effort, or strategic communication, and that it was posted and tweeted by his “stratcom director,” Brooke Emery.

In July, the local GOP stirred comment with a Facebook post on “QAnon,” a social media handle for fabulist conspiracy-theorizing.

•••

State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, says he believes plans for expanding Florida’s toll road system into rural areas won’t worsen the state’s water quality crisis and could ameliorate it.

Lee heads a new Senate committee set up to handle the initiative by Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. Galvano hopes for three new toll roads, including extending the Suncoast Expressway northward, with the goal of spurring rural economic development.

Last week the Times asked both senators how that would impact declining water quality, which environmentalists blame in part on overdevelopment. Lee’s response, which was too late for last week’s deadline:

“At this point, I don’t see a major connection and, at a minimum, I think it would be premature to speculate,” he said. But the legislation includes “a rigorous planning process” with “assessment of all environmental impacts.”

Lee said the plan isn’t likely to affect projections that the state population will increase by 4-5 million people by 2030, but could affect where that growth goes.

Dispersing that growth “may help mitigate some of the water quality issues traditionally associated with highly concentrated growth in urban areas,” he said.

Warren raises $100k quickly

After starting his 2020 re-election campaign early, Democratic Hillsborough State Andrew Warren is also moving fast to build a big campaign warchest, including contributions from Republicans -- moves clearly intended to stave off potential challengers.

Warren opened his campaign account Feb. 6 and has since raised more than $100,000 -- $67,479 in his campaign and $35,000 in an affiliated political committee, Safer Stronger Florida.

Most of the committee money, $25,000, came in two contributions from prominent Republicans, lawyer Martin Garcia and investor Stuart Lasher.

His campaign registered $1,000 contributions from Republicans including Gil Singer, Sheriff Chad Chronister, David Bekhor, former Tampa Chamber Chairman Mike Griffin and others, several of whom are also on his campaign fundraising committee.

Warren narrowly upset former Republican State Attorney Mark Ober in 2016.

Fried keynotes local Dems fundraiser

Florida Agriculture Secretary Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, will be the keynote speaker at the Hillsborough County Democratic Party’s Spring Fling fundraising cocktail reception March 23 at the DoubleTree hotel on Cypress Street.

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