The chairs of both the Seminole County Republicans and Democrats expressed outraged Thursday over a phony endorsement letter of Seminole Republican Chair Kathryn Townsend‘s re-election bid, in an email circulating over the false signatures of state Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil and other Democrats.
The origins of the letter are uncertain to either Townsend of the Democrats, though the Democrats are investigating.
Townsend is up for re-election Thursday night in a highly-contested battle for leadership of the Seminole GOP. The letter, circulating on-line, is supposed to be from Goff-Marcil, who was just elected in an upset victory of Republican former state Rep. Bob Cortes in House District 30, which includes south-central Seminole and north-central Orange County. The letter falsely lists Goff-Marcil, Seminole County Demicratic Chair Rob Bial and Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge as signatories.
The letter falsely conveys Goff-Marcil’s crediting Townsend with the Democrat’s victory.
It was sent out by email from a false GMail account for Goff-Marcil that she said someone set up in her name.
“I was infuriated when I first heard about it,” Goff-Marcil said. “I can’t imagine anyone would believe I actually wrote that. But people who don’t know me, who knows?”
The letter has a bit of a satirical tone.
It also has a bit of a racist tinge, urging Republicans to elect “white folks” so that Democrats can play “the race card”. And it has a bit of an ageist tinge, suggesting that Townsend’s supporters are likely to die off before the 2020 election.
The “white folks” portion may be a reference to one of Townsend’s challengers, Ramesh Gupta, with the implication that Democrats are urging Republicans to stick with Townsend, who is white.
“I am so disappointed that any fellow Republican would go to such a length not only to discredit me, but to discredit a state representative,” Townsend said Thursday afternoon.
“It’s absolutely insane. Obviously it’s fake,” Hodge said.
Goff-Marcil has asked Bial and Hodge to advise her how to respond. She also is consulting with Florida House advisors.
Bial said the Democrats have turned the letter over to attorneys for the Florida Democratic Party, and are working with Google to identify its origins.
The letter states, in part:
“So I once again want to urge all of you to support Kathryn Townsend for another term. She helped my campaign and nearly helped several other local Democrats win over Republican held seats. She did a great job leading Andrew Gillum over Governor-elect Ron DeSantis in Seminole County and if given the opportunity, I have no doubt she will help turn the entire county Blue for 2020, once again helping Democrats take control.
“And please,” it continues, “whatever you do, make sure you don’t elect anyone that doesn’t look or talk like us white folks. We Democrats will need the race card for 2020.”
It concludes, “Vote Kathryn because the Democrats need her!”
Later Thursday Goff-Marcil released a statement declaring:
“Today, I was made aware of an individual impersonating me through email in an attempt to sway Republican Party elections in Seminole County.
“I would like to make clear that I did not send, authorize, and was not aware that this message was sent out claiming to be on my behalf.
“This case of identity fraud serves as a reminder of the importance of verifying our information sources in this digital age.
“I look forward to continuing to work for the constituents of House District 30, both in our community and in Tallahassee.”