Curt Clawson's Ties to Child Molester Embattle Republicans in CD 19
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With less than two weeks to go until the primary, the race to replace former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., is now turning to one Republican hopeful’s ties to a convicted child molester.
Congressional candidate and businessman Curt Clawson is facing the rare sight of his three Republican primary opponents -- Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, former state Rep. Paige Kreegel and Michael Dreikorn -- demanding to know about his ties with Glen Borst, a convicted child molester who lived in a home owned by Clawson in Utah. Reports have emerged about Clawson’s financial disclosures regarding the house Borst lived in. There are also reports that Clawson and Borst were childhood friends.
"Now more than ever, we stand together to put politics aside to address some very serious questions that have been raised in this race,” the candidates said in a joint statement released Tuesday. “As candidates for the United States Congress – but more importantly as parents and members of this community -- there is no greater priority than protecting our children from the violent predators who target them. Recent news reports have brought into question Curt Clawson's relationship with a violent child rapist in Utah. He has dismissed these news reports as politically driven, and that just couldn't be further from the truth."
Benacquisto, Dreikorn and Kreegel also appeared at a media event in Fort Myers on Wednesday on the matter. Clawson crashed the event, which was held before a debate, insisting he knew nothing about Borst's activities and hitting his opponents for pushing politics as usual.
The Clawson team responded on Tuesday night with an audio recording from a woman who said she was the mother of the child Borst abused. This woman said she was upset and disgusted at Clawson's opponents for using her daughter's tragedy as a political issue.
On Wednesday, the Clawson team released a video featuring “Annie,” who said she is the mother of the victim. In the commercial released by the Clawson campaign, the woman bashed his rivals as “insider politicians.” During the campaign, the Clawson team has attempted to portray their candidate as the “outsider” in the race.
“Our family had healed from a terrible tragedy when insider politicians decided to reopen old wounds,” the woman says in the video. “They forced our family into the political fray. Curt Clawson had nothing to do with our private family ordeal. To those politicians who would selfishly parade my family around, stop.”
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In the meantime, the Republican hopefuls look to get their conservative credentials in order. Having unveiled the endorsements of both former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, and former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., in recent days, Benacquisto added the support of two of the most conservative women in Congress this week.
“The people of the 19th District have lost faith in their elected officials,” said U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo. “And the only candidate that can restore the sacred foundation of trust and integrity is Lizbeth Benacquisto.
“I am proud to endorse Lizbeth because she is the only conservative in this race that will get the job done,” Wagner added. “If you believe Obamacare should be repealed and replaced and that government ought to work for the American people and not against them, then join me in supporting Lizbeth Benacquisto as your next representative.”
Benacquisto also won the backing of U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., this week.
"Lizbeth Benacquisto is the only trusted candidate in this race that will protect the values we hold so dear,” said Black. “Whether it’s defending the sanctity of life, repealing Obamacare, or reducing our massive debt – I know Lizbeth will be fearless in that fight to protect the integrity of this great nation. Join me in supporting the only candidate with the right values to get the job done."
Clawson, in the meantime, signed a pledge from the Independent Women’s Voice (IWV) to support the repeal of President Barack Obama’s health-care law.
“The presence or absence of ovaries does not, in and of itself, prove a candidate’s bona fides as someone who understands or cares about the real-world effects of policy on women in our society today,” said Heather Higgins, the chairwoman and CEO of IWV. “Curt Clawson’s signature on IWV’s Repeal Pledge shows he understands what the other candidates for the GOP nomination apparently do not – that one of the chief manifestations of the real ‘War on Women’ is government-controlled health care in the form of Obamacare.
“We reached out to each of the candidates, and asked them to show the depth of their opposition to, and seriousness about, their determination to repeal Obamacare by signing our repeal pledge, which candidates have used since 2010 to prove their commitment on this crucial issue,” Higgins added. “None of the other candidates to date has chosen to sign the repeal pledge.”
Higgins also insisted the other candidates asking about Clawson’s ties to Borst were a “trumped-up issue.”
In the meantime, Kreegel’s camp pointed to its candidate’s background as a doctor making him well-prepared to take on Obama’s health-care law, including supporting its repeal.
“Dr. Kreegel’s background as a medical doctor and experience as a conservative state legislator best prepare him to fight Obamacare,” the Kreegel team insisted on Tuesday.
The candidates battle it out in the primary on April 22. Whoever emerges in the primary will be a heavy favorite over Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Ray Netherwood in the June 24 election.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.