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Republican primary between Alex Andrade and Cris Dosev for House District 2 turns negative

PNJ.com (Pensacola) logo PNJ.com (Pensacola) 7/27/2020 Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal
a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Rep. Alex Andrade and Cris Dosev © File photo Rep. Alex Andrade and Cris Dosev

This story has been updated to correct a mistake that appeared in the orignal verision. Cris Dosev served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a bombardier/navigator in the Persian Gulf War. 

The Republican primary for the Florida House District 2 seat has become perhaps the most heated political race in the Pensacola area.

Both incumbent Rep. Alex Andrade and challenger Cris Dosev live in the East Hill neighborhood of Pensacola, but there is no neighborly love lost between the two as their campaigns have turned increasingly negative against each other.

"My opponent is so desperate to run for office, he's going to say and do anything to get there," Andrade said. "And, you know, sometimes you got to punch a bully in the nose."

Dosev feels the same about Andrade.

"He's downright the most, rudest disrespectful young man I've ever met in my life," Dosev said.

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House District 2 covers most of southern Escambia County, including areas like Perdido Key, Myrtle Grove, Pensacola Beach and most of the city limits of Pensacola, as well as the Gulf Breeze area of Santa Rosa County.

The two candidates have exchanged barbs almost daily in social media comment threads, and they have taken their fight to the local airwaves.

Andrade is an attorney at the Moore, Hill and Westmoreland law firm and was first elected to the legislature in 2018. 

Dosev is a real estate developer and served in U.S. Marine Corps as a bombardier/navigator in the Persian Gulf War. He previously ran for Congress as a Republican in 2016 and 2018.

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On Wednesday, Dosev's campaign released an ad in response to a negative attack ad by Andrade's campaign. Dosev's ad attacks Andrade's support of the 2019 Florida Competitive Workforce Act and labels him "Angry Alex."

Although the bill had bipartisan support, it failed to move forward. If passed, it would have made discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity illegal, but would have also added religious exemptions for individuals and businesses.

"Cris Dosev has been running for some type of office for the past almost 3,000 days, and he has yet to give a voter a single reason to vote for him," Andrade said. "And no amount of lies about me and my conservative body of work is a reason to vote for him."

Voters beware. Angry Alex Andrade constantly attacks veterans, bullies mothers, and grandmothers and worst of all he sponsored a gay rights bill that paves the way for men to play on girls' sports teams and men to go in girls' bathrooms. Enough of Angry Alex.Instead, vote for pro-Trump conservative Marine combat veteran Cris Dosev. Dosev supports President Trump, our God-given gun rights, and the right to life.Angry Alex does the bidding of the swamp and lobbyists for personal gain. Cris Dosev is the true patriot who has served this nation with distinction and who ran the Trump boat parade for President Trump. The distinction is clear. Enough of Angry Alex and the politicians who are bought and paid for.Gay rights org Equality Florida thanking Alex Andrade: https://www.facebook.com/equalityfl/photos/a.10151239617050346/10161499401605346/?type=3&theaterAlex Andrade's statement on the gay rights bill: Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola): “When we study best practices in business, we look to companies that are innovative, prosperous and attract the best-trained workforce. That’s why so many of the biggest job creators in the state have established nondiscrimination policies at their companies and support this bill. The Florida Competitive Workforce Act is pro-business.” Source: https://www.eqfl.org/press-release-record-breaking-support-florida-competitive-workforce-actAlex Andrade's gay rights bill where he cosponsored: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/485

Posted by Angry Alex Andrade on Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Dosev's ad features video clips of a transgender woman and a clip from a documentary on "Drag Queen story time" while the ad's narrator claims the bill would have paved "the way for men to play on girls' sports teams and men to go in girls' bathrooms."

When asked if he thought his ad was offensive to the LGBTQ community, Dosev responded by saying he was speaking to voters in the Panhandle.

"This is the Panhandle," Dosev said. "You're not going to have that guy dressed up like that show up at the Pensacola public library, and you're not going to have all these folks in the Panhandle, conservative Christians, flocking to the library to hear story time. They're just not going to do it."

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Rep. Alex Andrade © Florida House of Representatives - Robert Hunter Rep. Alex Andrade

Andrade told the News Journal that he supported the bill because he believes that as a Christian, people shouldn't be turned away a diners or hotels because they are different.

"The bill also would have been the first to ingrain in statute protections for legitimately held religious concerns," Andrade said. "It would have protected against someone being forced to bake a cake. It would have protected against pastors being forced to administer the sacrament of marriage. At the same time, it would have established a baseline of respect and consideration for people different than myself or others. I'm not sure why he wants to fear monger. I think voters are smart enough to know the difference."

Dosev's ad was put together in response to an Andrade ad that attacked Dosev on the lines that he doesn't support President Donald Trump. Dosev said he believes Andrade went negative because he is worried about losing in the Aug. 18 primary.

For those of y’all without cable, this is my TV ad we’re running right now. You can’t say everything you’d like in 15 seconds, but you can speak the truth. I’m proud of the work I’ve done for Northwest Florida the past two years, and I appreciate the support I’m receiving from voters across the District!

Posted by Alex Andrade on Monday, July 20, 2020

"He claims that I'm lying about something," Dosev said. "I'm not lying about anything, OK, but he's a liar. I'm not defending anything because I have nothing to defend against. His allegations are lies. So I went on the attack, and my allegations are not lies."

Andrade's ad accuses Dosev of being funded by the Stop Trump PAC and hits Dosev for an unflattering social media comment in 2018 about Trump.

The allegation about the Stop Trump PAC is based off of a single 2018 tweet from an anonymous "Never Trump" Republican Twitter account called the Reagan Battalion. The account endorsed Dosev in 2018 and asked its more than 90,000 followers to donate to him in his race against U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz for the GOP nomination, which Gaetz easily won.

The Reagan Battalion Twitter account renounced its "Never Trump" position in 2019 and now tweets mostly criticism of media figures and Democratic politicians.

Dosev said he's never heard of the group and is surprised anyone could call him a "Never Trumper."

"If you look to his campaign contributions today, how many 'Never Trumpers' and staunchly liberal Democrats have donated to Alex's campaign?" Dosev said. "The Levin-Papantonio group, how many other attorneys, and they're all liberals, have donated to his campaign. So, the real Never Trumpers, the hardcore left Democrats in this town, donate to him."

Andrade did receive a $1,000 donation from Fred Levin, who was a trustee for the Florida Democratic Party in 2012, but Andrade has also received the strong backing of Gaetz.

"The only two groups I wouldn't ever take financial help from are the pro-abortion lobby and the Stop Donald Trump PAC," Andrade said. "I'll compare my record against Cris Dosev's any day of the week."

Both candidates acknowledged the negative tone in the race will likely turn away voters, and both said they'd rather talk about their records.

"I'm proud of my body of work. In the past two years, I passed the most military family friendly bill in a decade," Andrade said. "We passed the first pro-life bill in a decade. I brought home a record amount of money for infrastructure and water quality here in Northwest Florida, and I've established a reputation as one of the most effective conservative legislators in Tallahassee."

Dosev blames Andrade for going negative first and said if elected, he would join Rep. Mike Hill in sponsoring bills such as the fetal heartbeat abortion ban and would work to repeal the law that raised the age to buy a gun in Florida to 21.

"My No. 1 priority will be to pass and support any and every piece of legislation that gets people back to work in a state of Florida," Dosev said.

Andrade has the incumbent's advantage in the race. He has raised more than $171,000 to get his message out, while Dosev has only raised a little more than $8,000 on top of his own $10,000 loan to his campaign.

Despite the advantage, Andrade has repeatedly called on Dosev to debate before the primary.

Andrade said the Escambia County Republican Party offered to hold a virtual debate, but Dosev said he was not interested in virtual debates, calling them "Facebook silly things."

"I'm not going to contort myself to the REC's (Republican Executive Committee) requirements," Dosev said. "Now I went to WSRE, we videoed something there."

The WSRE Rally is pre-filmed candidate forum hosted by the local PBS station and the League of Women Voters. The program will air at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and will feature candidates in most races in the Northwest Florida area. 

Dosev said he felt the WSRE taping was a waste of time because the candidates were filmed separately and had limited time.

"Our team is doing the best we can in light of COVID," Dosev said. "We have our priorities and our priorities is to meet the constituents. So we're knocking on doors. We're introducing ourselves to people."

Andrade said he thought it was "ridiculous" that Dosev didn't respond to the REC request for a debate, and said he's reached out to Dosev multiple times to ask for a debate and to talk with him personally about the issues.

"I've texted and called Chris to try and have a grown-up, sit down with him for months, and he's never returned my call," Andrade said.

Dosev acknowledged Andrade had reached out to him.

"Look, I'm not a schoolgirl," Dosev said. "I'm not going to be responding to some text from somebody."

In particular, Dosev took issue with Andrade's TV ad that featured an image of Dosev and his wife, but the photo had been edited to obscure his wife, which Dosev said gave the impression he was having an affair.

"There's only one thing to talk about," Dosev said. "He needs to offer me a public apology for lying about me. First and foremost for lying about me. Second, attacking my integrity. And third, humiliating my wife. When he's prepared to do that publicly, I will talk to him."

Dosev said he did get a formal invitation from the Women for Responsible Legislation to participate in a candidate forum at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the Marcus Pointe Baptist Church Student Center and will participate in that.

Some members of the WRL are open supporters of Dosev and volunteer for his campaign.

Andrade confirmed Thursday he would attend the WRL forum as well.

"He obviously thinks he has an unfair advantage because some WRL members … actively support him," Andrade said. "But I'm happy to talk about my record. I'm an open book."

Jim Little can be reached at jwlittle@pnj.com and 850-208-9827.

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Republican primary between Alex Andrade and Cris Dosev for House District 2 turns negative

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