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Murder plot? Secret recording roils Florida U.S. House race
District 13 candidate William Braddock reportedly brags about having access to a “hit squad” to make rival Anna Paulina Luna “disappear”
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
ST. PETERSBURG (CFP) — Florida Republican congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna’s claim that her political rivals were plotting to murder her raised skeptical eyebrows when she made the charge in a court application asking for stalking protection.
“I really think that she’s exhibiting behavior that I would say is concerning,” said one. “This woman is off her rocker,” said another.
But then, Politico obtained a recording in which a man identified as her political rival, William Braddock, is heard bragging that he has access to a “hit squad” of “Ukrainians and Russians” prepared to make Luna “disappear” if she closes in on the Republican nomination in the 13th U.S. House District in Pinellas County.
“I really don’t want to have to end anybody’s life for the good of the people of the United States of America,” says the man identified as Braddock in the secretly recorded telephone conversation. “That will break my heart. But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done.”
“Luna is a f—ing speed bump in the road,” the man identified as Braddock says. “She’s a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood.”
When contacted by Politico, Braddock declined to say whether the voice on the recording, made June 9 by conservative activist Erin Olszewski, is him or whether he threatened to kill Luna. But he said, “This is a dirty political tactic that has caused a lot of people a lot of stress and is completely unnecessary.”
Florida’s 13th District seat, which Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is vacating to run for governor, is perhaps the GOP’s best pick-up opportunity next year in the Sunshine State. It is perhaps not helpful, then, that the two Republican candidates currently in the race — Luna and Braddock — are now involved in a police investigation over a possible murder plot.
A hearing has been scheduled for June 22 on whether to extend the injunction Luna got that bars Braddock from both her speaking events and Conservative Grounds, a coffee shop in Largo frequented by Pinellas conservatives.
After losing to Crist in November in the swing district, Luna, 32, a businesswoman and Air Force veteran, decided to make another run, encouraged by the prospect that Florida’s GOP-led legislature may make the district more Republican during redistricting.
Braddock, 37, a St. Petersburg attorney and former Marine, entered the race last week after Luna’s allegations became public.
Olszewski said that in her phone call with Braddock, he tried to dissuade her from supporting Luna in next year’s GOP primary; she recorded the call and turned it over to St. Petersburg police because she said she was concerned about Braddock’s “unhinged” dislike of Luna.
However, in Florida, secretly recording a phone call without the other person’s knowledge is a felony, and Braddock told Politico that he would seek civil damages and criminal charges against “folks in possession of whatever recording they think they have of myself or someone else.”
In her request for protection, Luna also said that Braddock claimed he was “working together” with two other Pinellas Republicans — Amanda Makki, whom Luna defeated in the 13th District GOP primary in 2020, and Matt Tito, a conservative political commentator who lost a Florida House race last year.
Both Makki and Tito have denied having any role in a plot against Luna (Makki is the person who called Luna’s behavior “concerning”), and Tito has said he’s talked to a lawyer about pursuing a defamation claim.
Tito told the Tampa Bay Times that although he knows Braddock and Makki, he has infrequent contact with both.
“[Luna’s] goal was to embarrass us, it was to get us to keep us out of the race, to intimidate us,” he told the Times.
In the meantime, the four Democratis in the race — State Reps. Ben Diamond and Michele Rayner, Christian Hotchkiss and Eric Lynn — continue their campaign, without any mention of political assassination or Russian and Ukrainian hit squads.