In a campaign video ad produced for Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R) , an “illegal immigrant” wearing a hoodie is depicted shooting a young, red-haired woman who is walking through a suburban neighborhood as she smiles and texts on her phone. 

In a voice-over, Corcoran says, “This could have happened to any family, anywhere,” and added, “Incredibly, some Tallahassee politicians want to make Florida a sanctuary state.”

In the video, Corcoran references the case of Kate Steinle -- a young woman who was shot to death by a Mexican national and illegal immigrant who had been deported multiple times from the United States. Steinle was shot to death in July 2015 in San Francisco by Jose Ines Garcia Zarate. Garcia Zarate's defense counsel argued that their client had accidentally discharged a pistol and that Steinle had been killed by a ricochet. The facts are disputed. However, Garcia Zarate was acquitted of homicide and was sentenced this month to the time already served awaiting trial. At the time of the killing, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump seized on the crime to illustrate the dangers posed by the sanctuary policies of cities such as San Francisco.

The release of the ad appeared to remove doubts that he is running for the governorship. The ad debuted on the day that Ron DeSantis -- a declared supporter of President Donald Trump -- was announcing his own bid to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination. For his part, Corcoran and his Watchdog PAC had already spent $95,560 to run the 30-second spot more than 700 times on Fox News channels this week in cities in north and central Florida, including Jacksonville, Pensacola, Orlando, Tampa, and St. Petersburg. Watchdog PAC expects to run the ad again. 

Corcoran has made immigration and his support of House Bill 9 a centerpiece of the Florida legislative session this year. HB9 would prevent so-called "sanctuary city" policies that restrict local law enforcement from assisting federal immigration authorities. The bill would also punish officials for voting in favor of sanctuary policies with fines or removal from office. While there is no legal definition yet for a “sanctuary” jurisdiction, it generally refers to states and localities where local jails refrain from notifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents about detainees they suspect to be illegal immigrants and keep them confined until ICE arrives.

In the past, Corcoran has condemned Florida’s two "sanctuary cities:" St. Petersburg and Tallahassee. Their mayors, both Democrats -- Rick Kriseman and Andrew Gillum -- dispute Corcoran’s claim.

HB9 is expected to face firm opposition in the Republican-controlled state Senate, but is expected to become a bargaining chip as Senate President Joe Negron (R) seeks to find support for additional state funding for education and other projects. 

Critics of Corcoran’s ad suggest that it engages in racism. For example, Tallahassee mayor Gillum characterized the ad, through a spokesperson, as "race-baiting" and that Corcoran "ought to be ashamed of himself." Gillum is running for the Democratic Party's gubernatorial nomination.

However, there was no criticism of the ad among Republicans. Neither DeSantis nor Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, both of whom are Republican gubernatorial candidates, chose to denounce the ad. 
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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