It's almost laughable how racist House Speaker Richard Corcoran was willing to be to become relevant in Florida's gubernatorial race.
In a new ad produced by Corcoran's political action committee, a young white woman strolls down a Florida suburb innocently giggling at her phone until a dark-haired "illegal immigrant" begins to stalk her. For no apparent reason, the hooded man suddenly pulls out a gun and shoots the woman as the camera focuses on her terrified face.
"This could have happened to any family, anywhere," Corcoran says in the ad. "Incredibly, some Tallahassee politicians want to make Florida a sanctuary state."
Some critics have called it "dog-whistle politics," but that's being generous – the ad is blatantly racist and rampant with white supremacist imagery. As the Miami New Times has pointed out, it evokes the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, a Ku Klux Klan propaganda piece where white men use violence to save white women from sexually violent actors in blackface.
Sound familiar? "When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best," then-candidate Donald Trump said. "They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists."
The nearly $100,000 ad from Watchdog PAC exploits the case of Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman shot by a homeless undocumented immigrant who had been previously deported several times. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate had been released from jail by San Francisco authorities despite a detainer request from federal immigration officials (which courts have found unconstitutional because it's not the same as a warrant). Garcia Zarate was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges after a jury found he wasn't aiming at Steinle when the gun fired after he picked it up – the bullet ricocheted off the ground in front of Garcia Zarate and traveled almost 80 feet before hitting Steinle. The jury did convict him, though, of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Garcia Zarate likely killed Steinle by accident, but that hasn't stopped Trump, Corcoran and every other Republican from using her death to vilify undocumented immigrants and attack "sanctuary city" policies.
Corcoran has spent much of his time this session promoting HB 9, a draconian proposal that would ban Florida's non-existent sanctuary cities and punish jurisdictions that don't comply. "This anti-American phenomenon must be stopped, and here in Florida we’re doing something about it," Corcoran wrote in the Tampa Bay Times.
Except Corcoran isn't protecting anyone's welfare – he's using race-baiting tactics to remain a salient Republican candidate in the Florida governor's race. He doesn't want to end up like Adam Putnam – a moderate career politician who embraced his inner Trump by describing himself as a "proud NRA sellout" only to have the rug pulled out from under him after Trump endorsed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, pushing him to the lead in the polls.
To some degree, it's worked – the ad provoked headlines across the state and Corcoran is actively engaging in Twitter spats with Democratic gubernatorial candidates and progressives. He even got Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat in the running for governor, to agree to a public debate.
But as the saying goes, you can't put all your eggs in one white supremacist basket. As Corcoran and other Republican candidates make their shameful race to the bottom by courting Trump voters with the most bigoted rhetoric they can think of, they forget one thing – the other half of the state can vote, too.
And on Nov. 6, Floridians will remember the candidates who have actual policies to improve this state – and the candidates who tried to get to the governor's mansion solely by demonizing Florida's immigrant families.