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Tampa Bay GOP congressional candidate suing local Community Patriots group

Christine Quinn says they failed to repay her for travel expenses to Washington for the Jan. 6 Trump rally.
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, Trump supporters participate in a rally in Washington.
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, Trump supporters participate in a rally in Washington. [ JOHN MINCHILLO | AP ]
Published Apr. 26
Updated Apr. 26

Former Republican congressional candidate Christine Quinn is suing the local Community Patriots group and two of its members, saying they failed to repay her for expenses of traveling to Washington for the Jan. 6 Trump rally which preceded the invasion of the Capitol.

Quinn, a Trump backer who ran against Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, in 2016 and 2020, has filed a claim for $3,709.97, naming the Patriots organization, its leader Jeff Hawks and backer Scott Courtney as defendants.

Republican Christine Quinn, who ran against Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, in 2016 and 2020.
Republican Christine Quinn, who ran against Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, in 2016 and 2020.

Quinn says in her complaint that she provided private jet travel to Washington and covered hotel costs for Hawks and another Patriots member, Carl Prewitt, who had told her they were supposed to be the “security detail” for the rally but couldn’t afford to go.

She also paid hotel expenses for the two pilots, after Hawks invited them to stay at the hotel and attend the rally, the complaint says.

It says Hawks promised to repay her with money from “big donors” to the organization, and that Courtney, a Tampa businessman, told her he was a supporter who would repay her, but she never received any money.

She also sought a refund of $250 membership dues to the organization.

Quinn says she joined the group thinking it was a Republican, pro-Trump group, but that Hawks has told her it’s a non-partisan, tax-deductible charity. On its web site, the group calls itself nonpartisan but also advertised and organized travel to the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally and local pro-Trump events.

Neither Hawks nor Courtney responded to repeated phone and text messages this week.

In an affidavit attached to Quinn’s claim, Prewitt says he told Hawks he couldn’t afford the trip, and that Hawks said the Patriots group would cover his expenses.

Quinn, reached while visiting the Mexican border last week on a trip with other Republicans to observe border crossings, said she attended the rally but didn’t go inside the Capitol; she didn’t know whether any of the other Tampa attendees did. She said she has been questioned by the FBI about her experience and showed agents videos she recorded at the rally.

The people who invaded the Capitol, she said, “were antifa, not patriots.”

The FBI has said there is “no indication at this time” that antifa played a role in the mob that stormed the Capitol.

Quinn, owner of the Clearwater-based My Family’s Seasonings spice company, got 38 percent of the vote against Castor in 2016 and 40 percent in 2020. She says she intends to run again next year.

Newcomers seek District 8 St. Petersburg Council seat

Two political newcomers are the only candidates filed so far for the open District 8 St. Petersburg City Council seat being vacated by term-limited Amy Foster, and as of now, political insiders say they’re surprised there’s no other candidate currently on the horizon.

The two candidates are Richmond “Richie” Floyd, a 29-year-old former aerospace systems engineer and on-leave public school teacher, and Dane Kuplicki, 39, a practicing optometrist and lifelong Pinellas resident.

Richmond “Richie” Floyd is a 29-year-old former aerospace systems engineer and on-leave public school teacher.
Richmond “Richie” Floyd is a 29-year-old former aerospace systems engineer and on-leave public school teacher. [ Richmond Floyd ]

Neither has previously sought public office or held positions in local government.

Kuplicki, the son of two long-time Pinellas schoolteachers, acknowledges, “This is my first venture into the political landscape,” but said, “I’ve been following the City Council and city politics for more than two decades as an armchair observer. When I came back from (Indiana University) I knew I wanted to be involved.”

Dane Kuplicki, 39, is a practicing optometrist and lifelong Pinellas resident.
Dane Kuplicki, 39, is a practicing optometrist and lifelong Pinellas resident. [ Dane Kuplicki ]

Floyd, meanwhile, says he’s been active in various organized labor and progressive causes as a volunteer and union member, including the Fight for 15 petition drive to raise the state minimum wage, and is familiar with political organizing.

“I’ve been doing a lot of activism in the city and I thought the best thing I could do to push the movement is to take it to a higher platform and advocate for working people’s issues,” he said.

District 8 lies south of 40th Avenue North and west of I-275, including the Kenwood, Disston Heights and St. Pete Heights neighborhoods.

Todd Pressman, a lobbyist who closely tracks local government, says it’s “kind of surprising, particularly in that part of town where there’s typically a lot of positive activism, that we haven’t seen more people getting into the race. An open council seat is a nice plum.”

Floyd says his campaign “is about economic, environmental, and social justice,” while Kuplicki emphasizes affordable housing, coastal resilience and “eoncomic and racial equity.”

Both have begun what look like serious campaigns.

Floyd, of Central Oak Park, has raised $28,979 since filing in November and says he’s knocked on 5,000 doors.

Kuplicki, who said he lived downtown until about a year ago and now in Kenwood, raised $11,246 in March, his first month as a candidate, and has loaned his campaign $5,000 more.

Berny Jacques files for D66 state House seat

Berny Jacques, a former assistant state attorney and TV political commentator, has filed to run for the District 66 state House seat, setting up a potentially tough Republican primary in the GOP-leaning district.

State Rep. Nick DiCeglie is leaving the seat open to run for the state Senate.

Jacques, 34, may be best known as a conservative pundit on Spectrum Bay News 9 since August, a position he’s now left to enter the race.

Berny Jacques, a former assistant state attorney and TV political commentator, has filed to run for the District 66 state House seat.
Berny Jacques, a former assistant state attorney and TV political commentator, has filed to run for the District 66 state House seat. [ Berny Jacques ]

He’s also director of development for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Tampa Bay. He previously spent four years an intern and assistant state attorney in the Pasco-Pinellas state attorney’s office, and a year as a bankruptcy and personal injury attorney.

A Stetson University law graduate, Jacques is known as a hard-line conservative and considers himself an ally of such firebrands as state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

National Guard veteran and defense contractor Alen Tomczak both filed for the seat last month and raised $33,045 in his first month as a candidate.

Both candidates have well-known Republican finance mavens as campaign treasurers — Nancy Watkins of Tampa for Tomczak and Stafford Jones of Gainesville for Jacques.

“It’s a conservative district and I believe I’m the most conservative candidate in the race,” said Jacques. He said freedom and opportunity in America are “under attack by radical socialists and cancel culture warriors.”

The coastal mid-Pinellas district runs from Bay Pines north to Clearwater.

This time, Lorei won’t appeal WMNF firing

Popular local political talk show host Rob Lorei won’t appeal his second firing as news and public affairs director of the community-supported radio station WMNF, which he helped found 40 years ago.

Rob Lorei.
Rob Lorei. [ "OCTAVIO JONES | TIMES" | Tampa Bay Times ]

Lorei was fired two weeks ago. He said he wasn’t told why; general manager Rick Fernandes said Lorei was told why, but the station couldn’t comment. Lorei responded in an interview that he asked Fernandes for a written statement of the reasons and didn’t get one.

Lorei was previously fired in February 2019 by former general manager Craig Kopp, who said he wanted to expand the station into digital news media as well as broadcasting. Responding to an appeal by Lorei, his fans demanded and got his reinstatement by the station’s board of directors, and Kopp left the station.

If he appealed again, Lorei said, “It’s going to tear the place apart and pit the factions against each other. … The station is in a very tenuous position – it’s got financial trouble, it’s got audience trouble, and I don’t want to cause more trouble.”

The firing won’t affect Lorei’s position as host of the popular Florida This Week panel show on WEDU TV.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.