- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2020

After President Trump became a resident of Palm Beach County late last year, Florida politicos say a conservative awakening in the area has positioned Republicans to pick off a vulnerable blue congressional seat.

The large county north of Miami is composed of three congressional districts, two led by Democrats and one held by a Republican.

Internal polling for a GOP candidate in Florida’s 21st Congressional District, home to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club residence and Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel, suggests it could turn red come November.

“The majority of Democrats, independents and Republicans do not like the way the Democratic Party is misbehaving — how they are treating police officers, how Lois Frankel is thanking the looters and the rioters and calling them peaceful protesters,” said Karen Giorno, chief strategist for Laura Loomer’s campaign to unseat the four-term incumbent.

Ms. Loomer, 27, is a conservative activist who gained national renown working for Project Veritas and appearing in its undercover videos to reveal left-wing election and polling shenanigans.

Her notoriety, however, led to her being banned from social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Still, Ms. Loomer’s name recognition helped boost her numbers in the district, according to the campaign’s data.

She is running in a crowded field for the Aug. 18 primary. The other Republican candidates include college professor Christian Acosta, exotic animal ownership advocate Liz Felton, real estate agent and former police officer Aaron Scanlan, philanthropist and small-business owner Reba Sherrill, and retired IRS agent Michael Vilardi.

A recent internal campaign poll of likely GOP, Democratic and independent voters in the district showed Ms. Loomer leading Ms. Frankel by 9 points in a general election matchup.

“The national political environment and the mood is different from 2018,” Ms. Giorno said. “The current political landscape is open right now to receive a Jewish, conservative, female candidate with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.”

The desire for law and order and the reopening of businesses after the COVID-19 shutdown in southeast Florida is driving some residents to sour on the Democratic Party, while others have turned away over the battle for free speech.

“Overall in the whole United States, there is an increase in people moving toward the Republican Party and particularly in West Palm Beach,” said Martin Bermudez, a Florida representative for LEXIT, a group of Latino voters who have left the Democratic Party.

He said people are frustrated by being attacked and “demonized” over a difference in opinion, citing the move by social media companies to silence conservatives, as many Republicans have charged about companies such as Twitter.

Mr. Bermudez, who lives in Miami, told The Washington Times that a new energy is rising in southeast Florida for Mr. Trump and his party.

“There is a lot more support for Trump than there was in 2016. There are a lot more people who have come out because they are just sick of what the Democrats are doing,” he said.

Michelle Lubin Terris, likewise, said voters could surprise in the Palm Beach area, as many residents are frustrated with their Democratic leaders and what she says is corruption at polling sites.

She lives in Broward County, south of Palm Beach, and is the founder of JEXIT — “Jews Exit the Democrat Party” — a group of Jewish voters who have left the Democratic Party to support Mr. Trump’s administration, mostly because of his foreign policy and loyalty to Israel.

Steven Schale was skeptical. He said there is no evidence Mr. Trump has improved his standing in Palm Beach County ahead of the November election.

Mr. Schale worked as a Democratic strategist in the Sunshine State for more than two decades and served as the Florida state director for President Obama’s 2008 campaign.

He noted that two Florida polls published in March showed Mr. Trump trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, suggesting the president hasn’t improved his standing in the traditionally blue area of Palm Beach County.

“Donald Trump got 39% of the vote in CD-21,” Mr. Schale said, referring to 2016 numbers and the comparison to Ms. Loomer’s campaign to unseat Ms. Frankel.

“Even in a good year, it would be hard for a Republican to compete there. Do I think a fringe conspiracy theorist can win there? Let’s just say I have a better chance of winning The Masters.”

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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