MIAMI — A lesser-known Republican contender for one of Florida’s most contested congressional races was caught on tape threatening to have her Republican opponent “disappear” with the help of a “Russian and Ukrainian killing squad.”
In a call with a conservative activist that lasted 30 minutes and was recorded before William Braddock ran for office, Braddock warned the activist not to vote for Republican candidate Anna Paulina Luna in the primary for a congressional seat in the Tampa Bay area because Braddock could have her killed. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) is leaving his seat to run for governor of Florida.
Braddock, when contacted by text message, flatly denied making any threats towards Luna toward Erin Olszewski, the person who filmed him.
Braddock refused to respond to numerous text messages asking if he had suggested Russian-Ukrainian killing squads, saying instead that he had not heard the recording and that it was “supposedly me… there is no confirmation of it.” The recording “may even be manipulated and modified,” he added.
The dirty political practise “has caused a lot of people a lot of anguish and is entirely unwarranted,” he said.
Olszewski said he did not change or edit the recording in any way. According to her, she created it because she was worried about Braddock’s “unhinged” antipathy of Luna. She submitted the recording to the St. Petersburg, Florida, police just after midnight last Wednesday and tipped off her friend Luna, who then filed a petition for an injunction against Braddock. Last week, he was the subject of two temporary restraining orders, one from Luna and one from Olszewski. The next day, Braddock officially entered the race.
Braddock is heard mentioning the suspected assassins at the beginning of the recording. He made incoherent claims of importing millions of cash from Malta and Gibraltar or receiving financial assistance from other Freemasons.
At around the three-minute mark of the call, he warned, “don’t get seen out in public supporting Luna…. I have access to a killing squad, too, Ukrainians and Russians.” I pray it’s just Luna when she dies.
Braddock continued by saying that he didn’t think Luna would be able to win the election if it went to a vote of the people. After serving in the Air Force and modelling for a time, conservative activist Estela Luna won the Republican primary for Florida’s 13th Congressional District last year, but she ultimately lost the election to Crist.
Braddock’s animosity against Luna is puzzling, but we don’t know why. Neither candidate appears to have any prior ties to the other, and Braddock is running in a crowded primary to replace Crist. Two state legislators and an ex-Obama administration official have already declared their candidacies, and more are expected to follow suit.
What was already shaping up to be a wild midterm of congressional elections was given a uniquely Florida twist by the threats, accusations of assassins, and political backstabbing. The Republican representative for Florida’s Panhandle, Matt Gaetz, is currently the target of a federal investigation into allegations of sex trafficking.
There has been a frenetic dash to find a replacement for Democratic Representative Val Demings, who is leaving her position in Orlando to run for the Senate. And with redistricting happening before next year’s elections, the state is getting an extra congressional seat, which is sure to cause another surge of candidates.