• 9 Investigates: Anti-sanctuary city ad draws praise, criticism

    By: Christopher Heath


    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A young woman walking down a suburban Florida street passes a hooded man.  The man produces a handgun, turns and at near point-blank range shoots the woman dead. That visual opens the newest ad from Watchdog PAC, which backs Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ahead of his anticipated bid for Florida governor.


    The ad is loosely based on the 2015 death of Kate Steinle.


    Read: 5 things to know about the Kate Steinle case


    On July 1, 2015, the 32-year-old woman was shot and killed while walking in San Francisco. 


    The man charged in her death, Jose Zarate, was an illegal alien who had been deported five times. 


    Two years after the shooting, a jury convicted Zarate of being a felon in possession of a firearm, but acquitted him of all murder and manslaughter charges.


    “A young woman gunned down by an illegal immigrant who should have been deported, but was protected by a sanctuary city,” Corcoran says in the ad alluding to the death of Steinle. 


    In the ad, Corcoran doesn’t mention that Zarate was acquitted. 


    When asked about a potential mischaracterization of the events, his PAC, in a statement to 9 Investigates wrote, “The trial of Jose Zarate was an outrageous miscarriage of justice. The ad depicts a scene where an innocent American is gunned down by an illegal who was protected by sanctuary policies--that’s exactly what happened in San Francisco.”


    While the visualization of the woman killed opens the ad, the core message is the push by Corcoran and the Florida House to ban sanctuary cities.

    “Incredibly, some Tallahassee politicians want to make Florida a sanctuary state,” said Corcoran in the ad.

    In suggesting Florida could become a sanctuary state, Corcoran is referencing a bill filed in 2017 and again in 2018 by Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith as well as statements made by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum on Twitter.

    In 2017, Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, wrote in part, “President Trump’s immigration Executive Order attacking cities is not a projection of strength, but a reflection of weakness. His actions are inconsistent with our highest values and cause us to shrink from our rich history as a nation of immigrants. We can protect our national security interests and have a secure border without criminalizing people who are here undocumented.”

    Gillum’s campaign released a statement on the ad Monday, saying, "Speaker Corcoran's race-baiting ad is everything that's wrong with politics today. In the age of Trump, Corcoran is vilifying immigrants. It's a vile ad that seeks to divide us against one another, and the Speaker ought to be ashamed of himself. Mayor Gillum is running a substantive, progressive campaign on the issues facing everyday Floridians, and we encourage the Speaker to do the same when he finally joins the race."


    Rep. Smith also commented on the ad from Corcoran saying, “Multiple studies have shown that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens. This is shameless scapegoating and xenophobia.”


    Corcoran has not officially entered the 2018 race, although he has been assembling the apparatus required for a run at the GOP nomination.

    The ad also caught the attention of Republican Adam Putnam’s campaign. 


    Michael Marinaccio, Putnam’s deputy campaign manager said on Twitter, “Everywhere you look, runner-ups stealing lines from Putnam. Who challenged Andrew Gillum on making FL a sanctuary state? Not Corcoran, but Adam Putnam.  Who’s been fighting for greater vocational and technical education focus? Not DeSantis, but Adam Putnam.”


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