By Ryan Dailey, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — A closely watched race for a North Florida state Senate seat long held by Democrats continued to heat up Monday, as incumbent Loranne Ausley and Republican challenger Corey Simon went toe-to-toe on guns, abortion and education issues.
Ausley, the scion of a politically connected North Florida family that includes former state lawmakers and a prominent attorney, was first elected to the Senate in 2020 after withstanding a challenge from Republican political newcomer Marva Preston. Ausley previously served two stints in the House.
Simon is new to politics but he wields name recognition locally, a factor some political analysts have warned Democrats not to overlook. The former Florida State University football star also played professionally, and his campaign mailers heavily feature FSU’s garnet and gold colors. Simon also previously was tapped by Gov. Ron DeSantis to lead the state agency Volunteer Florida, a post that Simon left when he launched his Senate bid.
At their first debate during a Capital Tiger Bay Club event in Tallahassee on Monday, Ausley and Simon fielded questions on policy and politics.
The pair dueled on the issue of guns, with Simon expressing views largely aligned with those of Florida’s GOP leaders.
“My feelings on guns are very simple. We have to stop criminalizing law-abiding citizens for their Second Amendment rights. I support the (Coach Aaron Feis) Guardian Program that puts more school-resource officers on our campuses,” he said.
The Florida Legislature created the school guardian program in 2018, as part of a sweeping school-safety measure passed in response to a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The program has sparked controversy, in part, because it allows school personnel, including teachers, to be designated as “guardians” and carry firearms on campus.
Ausley said that, while she supports Second Amendment rights, “even the Florida Constitution acknowledges that the manner of bearing arms can be regulated by law.”
“We have a gun violence epidemic in this country, and it’s different than every country around the world. And it’s far too easy for people who shouldn’t have access to guns to get them,” she said.
Ausley was pressed about a controversy surrounding a recent political mailer depicting children on shooting-range targets surrounded by bullet holes. Simon also is pictured in the mailer, which was paid for by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
“Don’t let extremists like Corey Simon turn our schools into shooting ranges,” the mailer said. After the ad drew objections from local Republican party officials and others, Ausley said she never approved it.
“My campaign is not responsible for the mail piece,” Ausley said Monday. “It was put out by the Democratic Party. I have no control over what they send out. I do not prefer these campaign tactics, I don’t think either of us do, but neither of us can control them.”
Democrats long have controlled the North Florida Senate seat, but the Legislature redrew the district as part of the state’s once-a-decade redistricting process. The district, which includes Leon County and now spans a dozen rural counties, is comprised of approximately 170,000 registered Democrats and about 126,000 registered Republicans, according to the state Division of Elections’ website.
With Democrats outnumbered 24-16 in the upper chamber, Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, has called Ausley’s re-election bid “too important” to lose.
As Republicans seek to flip the seat, DeSantis endorsed Simon after he jumped into the race for Senate District 3 over the summer.
The candidates on Monday also were asked about their stances on abortion access. The issue was reignited in campaigns this year after U.S. Supreme Court justices overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion and Florida enacted a new law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Simon expressed support for the 15-week restriction, but added that “there should be some exceptions for rape and incest,” which the state law does not include. He also rebuked Ausley’s “extremist” label, saying he is “certainly not for locking moms up for the choices they’ve been making.”
Under the state law passed this spring, abortion providers could face third-degree felonies for violations and loss of licenses for violations.
Ausley, who voted against the abortion measure, criticized Simon’s answer, saying that lawmakers had to vote for the measure as a whole, not just the portions they supported.
“In my experience, I haven’t seen any Republican that is supported by the Republican Party as heavily as you are, be able to come into this process and vote a different way (than the party),” Ausley said.
But Simon, who frequently has painted himself as a political outsider, shot back that, as a Black conservative, he will “think for (himself)” and not simply vote with the party.
Ausley and Simon also diverged on the issue of school-voucher programs. Ausley characterized the programs as “siphoning money” from traditional public schools, while Simon backed vouchers as “putting our kids first and putting the system second.”
When the candidates were invited to ask each other questions before the debate concluded, Ausley asked Simon whether he believes that President Joe Biden was “duly elected” in 2020 — a result that former President Donald Trump and many Republicans throughout the country refuse to accept.
“The election is done. President Biden is the president. And we are worse for it,” Simon said.
When asked to clarify his answer, Simon repeated it.
Simon is certainly not a puppet, as being a Black Republican is rarer than hen’s teeth. Mr. Simon’s views are more like mine than Ms. Ausley (who I voted for in the past). This year I will again vote for who I deem the best candidate – looks like Corey Simon is getting another vote.
Thank you for this very good summary article.
@Edward — I understood. I was just trying to point out that some positions have no room for compromise. The pro-life position, based on the belief that abortion takes a human life, is one of them. To compromise means to accept and allow the taking of an innocent life.
Ironically, those on the other side are largely the same folks that are against the death penalty and argue that there’s always a chance that the condemned is innocent. Hmmm…. They literally argue that killing the innocent for convenience is OK while simultaneously argue against killing those that kill others.
We should be charitable and respectful in our comments and not allow a candidate’s outward appearance have any association to how we vote. It’s the honorable and American thing to do.
That being said I have often wondered if our outward appearance changes by what we put into our bodies and minds. We all know the look of long time meth users and that is not the case here in this political race.
But what could a long term mental indoctrination of leftist concepts such as the nice word for infanticide AKA abortion and the indoctrination of Bibilical abominations related to men laying with men, along with almost all leftist concepts and things they support, do to a person’s outward apperance?
I feel what you put into your mind and body can, and in many individuals does, show up to the astute observer in your outward appearance.
Circling back to my first statements in the beginning paragraph: Have you noticed how one of the candidates holds a strong resemblance to those witches in the Shrek III movie in which the main villain was Rumpelstiltskin?
Who are you going to vote for?
OT – I hope Rep. Allison Tant has her husband, Barry Richards, sue Sean Pittman and Nick Maddox for their campaign faux pas.
Same old tired rhetoric.
Tired of both parties.
Get out of the cities.
Homeschool your kids.
Corey Simon is one of the finest people you will ever meet. He is thoughtful, respectful, and will never ever make a mockery of being an elected member of government, unlike Ms. Ausley who thought it clever, funny, and worth sharing a video of her skipping with two other members of the Democrat caucus in the State Capitol rotunda singing “Gay, gay, gay.”
She misrepresented the Parental Rights in Education bill, as did nearly all Dems and the MSM.
I could not help but notice one of her campaign ads seemingly promoting kids, public ed, etc. while the children in her ad were from a local private school. There is an exodus from public schools and, locally we know why, Corey is correct on vouchers. Ausley wants to protect the status quo which is failing our kids.
@ Skeptic… Ironically, I believe you may have missed my point about the “immovable extremes”, while making it at the same time. We will never be able to move forward on an issue – in any direction – if we are immovable. Therefore, and sadly, the entire tragic issue shall remain nothing more than a political campaign tool. So long as either side views a given issue as having value to their respective campaign, we will never be able to have an honest discussion about a solution to said issue. For the record, I am registered NPA and strongly pro life.
Anyone who wants to share in the heartache of countless women who have had an abortion and who have, in many instances, been grieving for decades should visit silentnomoreawareness.org. (If you just type in “silent no more”, the site will come up)
Anyone who wants to share in the joy of parents adopting newborn babies should watch “covenant care adoption videos” on YouTube.
Barb, of course adoption is an option, but those who’ve adopted kiddos know that the circumstances of a child’s birth is part of who they are. A rape survivor might decide to place the child, which that child will question about their love for them too IF the birthmother had no choice but to give them birth. The route of adoption isn’t enough for a mother to not abort if they don’t have a choice whether or not to carry the child. It is also not enough for the child to fell their birth mother’s love and good things for the child if placed for adoption. (And you do know that rapists still have parental rights in Florida, so adoption would not be possible without the rapist’s consent, and still in FL the rapist (remember that most rapists are not charged or convicted) can petition for visitation etc.) It IS THE continuing CHOICE that allows survivors to lovingly raise the child in such circumstances, or to risk having to interact with their rapist or their rapist having contact with their child in placing the child. It is having the choice that results in the best life possible for the child in tough circumstances. Those who want to decide for them just do not know the harm they do to both the survivor and the child.
Lots going on here….
@Disgusted — The party does not put out ads targeting a specific opponent in a specific race without the candidate’s express knowledge and consent. The party may have put the ad out, but she had to OK it.
@Edward — “Immovable extremes”. One side believes that a human life is at stake, not a potential human life. Therefore, killing that baby is wrong. To those of us on the pro-life side if the left wants a life, take that of the rapist, not an innocent child. The extreme on the other end claims that killing the child for convenience is perfectly fine. What’s next? Killing a 4 year old because potty training has failed?
@Lena — that tired old mantra goes nowhere here. The Democrats are the party of slavery. They fought hard to maintain it for more than a century. They gave us the KKK. They gave us public lynchings of blacks. They fought against equal rights for blacks. When rights were granted they imposed the LBJ policies that have destroyed the black family. They continue to push for affirmative action to reinforce the “blacks aren’t capable” mantra. etc., etc., etc. Come out of the dark and see what your party is peddling….
Lena is apparently one of those “If you don’t vote Marxicrat, you ain’t black” kind of people. I love these folks that guise their inherent racism with virtue signaling. I suppose Lene also thinks that we “people of color” are not smart enough to get an ID or to the grocery store.
@ Barb: Yes. As I have said many TIMES….” Be some ones HERO. There are a LOT of people Ready to Adopt your unwanted soon to be born Baby. Be their HERO and let them Adopt your Baby”. A Woman’s Body is no longer just HER Body the second His Sperm entered your Egg, it becomes BOTH your Body because that is when Human Life starts, NOT when you hear a Heart Beat but when His Sperm enters Your Egg.
Lena, it is disingenuous of you to sugarcoat your League of Women Voters “progressive” agenda. Look at your website and scroll down to the mission statement that you probably know by heart. Your organization has NEVER been politically neutral.
OT: Political Comedy Alert.
Be on the lookout for some crazy gaffs as the “Gaff Master Of The United States” will be in Florida today.
The White House has fed their press minions the basic outline that Gaff Master Joe will meet with America’s Govornor “The esteemed Ron Desantis” today in person to discuss Hurricane recovery going forward.
There is a 100% forcast for Joe’s usual gaffs and and demintia to be wildly on display!!!!
Also we may get a real comedy treat as the forcast is high Joe will meet with Charlie Crist while hes in Florida. Talk about a scenario just ripe and dripping with gaff potential!!!
Will Joe and Charlie hug?
Will Joe sniff Charlie’s hair?
Will Joe forget who Charlie is?
Wow just Wow the forcast for political comedy has never been higher in the entire history of the Free State of Florida!!!!
I know Loranne Ausley, and I like her on a social level. There is NO WAY her party ran that “bullseye” ad without her knowing about it.
So it seems that Mr. Simion is backing out of the League of Women Voters debate under the pretense that they are too “liberal” for his taste.
Just a reminder for Mr. Simon, the feminists (including those of the 100+ year old LWV) have worked toward a common cause with early abolitionists— fighting for the rights of women and minorities and that’s why they advocate for such progressive causes. Racial and gender equality are the opposite of what the GOP stands for.
If progressive groups like these did not exist, people with the same ethnicity as Mr. Simon would NEVER be allowed to run for office, much less vote. The social conservatives never wanted equality and still do not.
Let’s not forget the Republicans are good friends with groups like the Proud Boys and there was no end of revulsion over the election of Barack Obama by the GOP because of his ethnicity. And Hillary over her gender.
Mr. Simon and Herschel Walker have simply joined the wrong political party and are being used by the Republicans who want toadies that can get elected instead of the bitter old white conservatives they offer.
Mr. Simon has done more to save, educate and protect the children of this community than any other elected leader we have.
He was trained by one of the finest Leaders I have ever met. He is a Team player and can work with folks across the political divide.
R or D, he will do more to actually get results to stop violence at its roots than any other over paid executive director in the numerous organizations that were formed to help the youth.
Ms. Ausley is a pleasant enough person but I am not aware of her accomplishments outside the political arena.
“My campaign is not responsible for the mail piece,” Ausley said Monday. “It was put out by the Democratic Party.
100% BS… unless she sues the Marxicrat Party for unauthorized use of her likeness and name, slander, defamation, and libel. Your move LoLo… or own it and stop lying.
As for the Abortion issue… the problem is the immovable extremes. One side refuses to accept that there must be exceptions, and the other side refuses to accept that there must be limits. If both sides can agree that there must be exceptions and there must be limits… then, and only then, can an honest discussion begin as to what those exception and limits should be… it wont be easy of course, but at least the discussion begins from a point of mutual agreement on something.
BTW… my family’s votes go to Simon
Is video of this debate available somewhere online?
Rosemary, don’t forget, adoption is a loving choice.
Additionally, as you know, all decisions in life have a time frame. The baby is growing and developing the whole time the woman is pregnant just as it continues to do so after birth.
Simon has my Vote. The TB Club did a Poll after the Debate and gave Ausley 75% which tells me that they are truly Democrats no mater what.
Barb, the reason we need the exception for rape and incest is that survivors can only find a way NOT to abort if they continually have the choice TO abort. Especially for those who believe that life matters, the agonizing decision to keep a child of someone who harmed them in that way is not settled in 15 weeks. It isn’t even settled at birth about whether a mother can successfully raise the child without them bearing the scars caused by the rapist. When there is choice only THEN can the mother tell the child that their great love for the child allowed them to keep and raise the child who is good and worthy regardless of the wickedness of the rapist (a fact of their birth that in today’s world is likely fully public). Being forced to give birth takes away that important and necessary message from the mother and child, and guarantees MORE abortions in the first 15 weeks (when the mother can find the resouces to do so). That is the important part that those who support a government forever ban and who have not been raped just don’t account for.
There is no way an ad like that went out without her knowing it! Absolutely don’t believe her!!!
This puts the local Revernds of our big Black Churches in a bit of an akward situation.
Typically in kind rewards, contributions, and various funding desguised as childern programs and the like have been “bestowed” upon our local Reverends without any accountancy expectations on how the money is spent in exchange for rallying their congragations to vote Democrat candidates down ballot.
This has been a local tradition since restoration times after the civil war.
Maybe our local Democratic power brokers will just throw Ausley to the wolves to allow for a gracefull election of Simon without financially penalizing the local Reverends.
Because its going to be an akward sell from the pulpit to push Ausley over local beloved Simon.
Simon has helped many locals in many ways over the years and the congragations from the local churches all know this. Ausley really does not stand a chance in the Black communitty and should gracefully make up some bogus excuse to withdraw from the race or her political career will likely be over.
Simon is a puppet and will sell us out in a heartbeat. He has no business even considering this position. Ausley has done good work, and tries to stem the Republican tide. Simon claims he wants to represent the people who ” haven’t been heard.” It’s the Republicans who haven’t been listening, and they have dictated all bad policies in this State for over 20 years.
Easy decision, Simon has my vote.
However, I disagree on one point. The law restricting abortions to 15 weeks does not need an exception for rape and incest. A woman knows right away if she has been a victim of rape or incest. She does not need more than 15 weeks to make her decision.
Corey Simon did an awesome job in this debate and exceeded my expectations. What came out in the end at this debate was that Corey Simon will do the right thing and Loranne will stick to her party’s talking points no matter what come hell or high water and even to the detriment of our quality of life. Her party’s mismanagement has affected our lives yet she will not give an inch.
Democrats will cross over and vote for Corey because they see that he will make the corrections of the bad policies and we will be better for it.