- By Christine Stapleton Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Among the three Republicans and two Democrats facing off in the primary: A natural healer who was a child soldier in Lebanon; a first-generation American who earned a doctorate in global business and belongs to the National Rifle Association; a tech-savvy progressive; a conservative blogger whose publication was suspended by Twitter; and the incumbent — a liberal vegan and political veteran whose war chest includes donations from hedge fund billionaires and Hollywood tycoons Steven Speilberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
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While gun control will be a hot topic in elections across the country, the topic is especially personal in District 22 — home to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a gunman killed 17 students on Valentine’s Day.
Democrat incumbent Ted Deutch, 52, of Boca Raton, met with Parkland victims and families and hosted a town hall in April. Deutch said he “couldn’t believe that Congress could not come together and pass any gun control legislation after the Parkland shooting. Deutch, a longtime gun control advocate, supports a ban on assault weapons and bump stocks and has also pushed to expand background checks and raise the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21.
Deutch blames the NRA — which strongly supported President Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election — for blocking recent gun control efforts.
“There is no valid reason that we shouldn’t be able to pass the kinds of legislation that have been introduced with such broad support across the country,” Deutch said, citing efforts to close terrorist watch list loopholes. “I think anything we can do, we ought to do.”
Deutch’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Jeff Fandl, mirrors Deutch’s views on gun control, but stresses that gun control alone is not enough. More mental health care, especially for young men, is needed to address the cause of gun violence, he said.
“We try to band-aid the problem and don’t look at the root cause,” Fandl said. For example, life skills courses in schools could teach youth how to handle stress and process emotions, he added. “Let’s face it, education is a powerful weapon.”
Fandl has no political experience, but he considers himself a progressive liberal. With his son nearly grown, Fandle said he felt the time was right to enter politics. Fandl said his background in tech and project management — especially in the insurance industry — prompted him to develop a detailed single-payer healthcare plan that could be phased in over four years.
Fandl, who has refused to take donations from corporations, has raised no money besides the $15,000 he has loaned his campaign. He is aware that Deutch has raised $965,300 and that he cannot compete with his opponent’s ability to buy ads. Still, Fandl said he intends to target voters — especially young voters — on social media.
Fandl, 49, of Coconut Creek, supports immediate naturalization of Dreamers and the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
The winner of the Democratic nomination will face a strident Republican opponent.
Republican candidate Javier Manjarres — who has obtained major GOP endorsements — infuriated Parkland victims and gun-control advocates with a tweet on July 6, accusing Fred Guttenberg, father of 14-year-old Parkland victim Jaime Guttenberg, of using his daughter’s death to advance his gun control initiatives.
“C’mon, Fred. I can’t only imagine the pain you are feeling over the loss of your daughter, but stop exploiting her death in the name of some political agenda. Your daughter was shot by some lunatic who had an AR-15, not by the gun itself,” stated Manjarres’ social media missive.
Manjarres ended his tweet with #VoteJavi. Manjarres said he apologized to Guttenberg for “sounding insensitive.”
“What is wrong with me expressing my First Amendment right?” Manjarres said about his tweet. “Everyone knows he has an agenda … At the end of the day, you can’t say “boo” to these people.
For a week, angry critics tweeted their disgust with Manjarres’ tweet at Guttenberg — and brought to the surface a particularly ugly episode from the GOP candidate’s past.
Namely, Manjarres’ arrest in 2016 on charges of attempted first-degree murder. According to a Boca Raton police report, Manjarres broke the nose of his sister’s boyfriend, then fired three shots into the boyfriend’s truck as he drove away.
Manjarres denied firing any shots or breaking the man’s nose. Prosecutors did not pursue the case because of problems with the photo line-up.
Manjarres has also been involved in 14 domestic violence and stalking cases since 2008. In most of the cases, ex-girlfriends accused him of stalking them and confronting men they were subsequently dating. Manjarres, in turn, sought injunctions against some of the women, saying he feared they would harm him.
With the exception of one case, all of the accusations are “absolutely, categorically false,” Manjarres said.
“These same people who made the allegations, they apologized to me,” Manjarres said. “At the end of the day, these are just allegations — false allegations.”
In January, Manjarres’ brother sought an injunction, claiming his brother had threatened him in person and on social media. Although an injunction was initially granted, the case was dismissed when Manjarres’ brother failed to appear in court.
In other cases, injunctions were issued for a short period of time. In others, judges denied the requests.
Manjarres said during an interview in July that his renown as a blogger for the controversial, conservative Shark Tank website makes him the target of false accusations.
Twitter suspended one Shark Tank account that Manjarres repeatedly used through late 2016. Manjarres said he has no recollection of ever creating the account or using that account.
“I’ve been accused of being a murderer and rapist because I run a conservative political blog,” Manjarres said. “I’ve been a public figure for over 10 years. Most people know me or of me.”
Immigration is Manjarres’ top issue.
He supports building a wall along the southern border and that immigration is tied to national security. His parents emigrated from Colombia and he sympathizes with dreamers — children who came to the U.S. illegally with their parents. He prefers they be given an opportunity for residency and then citizenship.
Manjarres has been endorsed by Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
“I have known Javier for many years and can attest to his indisputable commitment to preserving our American way of life. He is one of the strongest conservatives on the political playing field today, and I am confident that when elected to the U.S. Congress, his unique approach of addressing issues facing our nation will serve his constituents – and all Americans well,” Bondi said in a statement released by Manjarres’ campaign on May 29.
Eddison Walters, one of Manjarres’ opponents in the Republican primary, weighed in on Manjarres’ domestic violence cases on July 16 by posting six tweets containing the case numbers to Manjarres’ domestic violence cases in Broward County.
Walters’ parents emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago when he was a child. They operated a small business, which prompted him to earn an MBA and a Phd in global business. His primary focus is relieving the tax burden on small businesses, which would encourage entrepreneurship, Walters said.
As a member of the NRA, Walters sees gun control as tinkering with the Second Amendment: “When you start chipping away at the Constitution, you start chipping away at the American dream.”
Walters opposes arming teachers and banning sales to those under 21. He supports broad concealed carry laws.
Walters, 51 of Boca Raton, sidestepped the global warming debate by focusing on sea level rise — which he said is definitely a problem for coastal communities. Infrastructure must be improved but not by the federal government, Walters said.
“The role of federal government is not to come into a community and solve its problems,” Walters said. “The role of he federal government is to support, in terms of funding, what is needed.”
A third Republican primary candidate, Nicolas Kimaz, supports arming teachers and would oppose a ban on assault rifles. Kimaz emigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 1978 when he was 15 “to escape the life of a child soldier where Civil War had torn society apart,” according to his campaign web site.
As a naturopathic doctor, Kimaz supports the use of cannabinoids for medical use but opposes legalizing recreational use of marijuana.
Kimaz, 58 of Boca Raton, is a political newbie. He said he felt God was leading him into politics. He — like the other Republican candidates in the race — opposes abortion. He is a staunch supporter of Trump and says on an online campaign video that he has “no time for political correctness.”
“Democrats use political correctness to silence us and political debate,” Kimaz said.