CD 13 Republican Primary: A Donald Trump loyalty contest

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The Republican Primary for Florida’s 13th Congressional District is a contest of who can out-Trump their opponents.

Yes, the race has been plagued by lawsuits, death threats, and an abundant use of the termRINO,” but the core battle of this Primary has whittled down to one test: Who can prove the strongest loyalty to former President Donald Trump? Notably, a June poll found that Trump remains popular with 85% of Republicans in the district. Just one in seven said they disapproved of him.

While Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna boasts the coveted endorsement from the former President, former prosecutor Kevin Hayslett and Republican strategist Amanda Makki have tirelessly worked to also prove their alliance to Trump — even after he called them “RINOs.”

Makki dove headfirst into Trump territory and heightened conservative rhetoric at her campaign kickoff last July ⁠— a shift from her previous approach as a more moderate conservative.

Hayslett has repeatedly aligned himself with the former President in advertisements, especially on the topic of immigration. He even threw the “RINO” jab back at Luna in the commercial, calling her a “pro-amnesty, (Barack) Obama-loving liberal.” Luna and Hayslett have gone head-to-head in the weeks leading up to the Primary, spending big on attack ads.

But, despite Hayslett and Makki’s attempts to out-Trump Luna, she’s still considered the front-runner in the race.

Luna took the Republican nomination back in 2020, defeating Makki in the Primary; however, Luna failed to unseat incumbent Congressman Charlie Crist. But now, the seat is open. And, there’s a better chance for Republicans to flip it, thanks to redistricting.

The pressure among the GOP hopefuls rose after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed his new congressional map. That map shifted the district from purple to red — now, it extends further north into traditionally Republican parts of Pinellas County and eliminates parts of St. Petersburg, which was previously the district’s largest city and served as a Democratic stronghold.

This means that the winner of the Republican nomination may have a smoother wave to ride into the November General Election than previously expected. So much so that it led two leading Democratic candidates to drop out — leaving just one Democrat, former Obama administration official Eric Lynn, in the race.

As for endorsements, Luna has garnered the biggest names as far as Trump-territory goes.

She’s been endorsed by U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert and Byron Donalds; Turning Point Action, founded by conservative activist Charlie Kirk,; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

Hayslett has a collection of endorsements from former Trump advisor Michael Flynn, well-known Tampa Bay Sheriffs, House Speaker Chris Sprowls and the Tampa Bay Times. Makki has collected support from 13 Pinellas County Mayors.

Hayslett has quickly come up as the underdog in the race after he launched his campaign in January. As of Aug. 3, He’s the second highest fundraiser, bested only by Luna, with $1,591,026 raised so far. Luna is still on top in the numbers game, amassing $1,951,455 since the start of her campaign. Makki follows the pair with $914,450 raised, nearing the $1 million marker.

The CD 13 Republican Primary includes two other candidates: Christine Quinn and Moneer Kheireddine, who have both raised under $50,000 total. Quinn unsuccessfully attempted to unseat U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor in 2020.

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