Conservative South Florida blogger and GOP congressional candidate Javier Manjarres is railing against Rep. Ted Deutch for “exploiting” victims of the school shooting in his district to promote a pro-gun control agenda.
Manjarres, who runs the popular conservative blog Shark Tank will challenge Deutch for Florida’s 22nd Congressional District seat, he announced Tuesday in a news release.
The district includes the city of Parkland, where a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February.
Manjarres has been critical of Deutch since the shooting for elevating the student survivors as agents of political pressure to enact gun reform laws.
Deutch appeared at a town hall in his district Tuesday evening titled “Gun Violence Prevention: Next Steps.”
Some parents of the children who were killed in the February shooting spoke, as well as a handful of survivors, who claimed many of the students at the school are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
One student said she felt “like we are being treated like prisoners for crimes we didn’t commit” because of increased security at the school and safety precautions such as clear backpacks.
“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what the right balancing act is,” Deutch said.
Such joint appearances with Parkland students and families of shooting victims have not sat well with Manjarres.
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Deutch’s behavior since the shooting in Parkland “is a reminder that shameful extremists like Deutch will go as far as to lie in their ongoing efforts of exploiting victims of the shooting for political expediency and gain,” Manjarres said in a statement Tuesday. “He has offered Americans nothing more than failed leadership and ideological policies.”
Manjarres, 45 and the son of Colombian immigrants, has billed himself as an anti-establishment force with a working-class background who is unafraid to speak his mind unfiltered.
In a tweet pinned to his Twitter page, Manjarres called Deutch “pathetic” for criticizing Sen. Marco Rubio’s record on gun violence and told his opponent to “grow a pair of balls and give credit where it’s due” after Rubio endorsed Florida’s state gun reform bill that passed in March.
In 2016, Manjarres was accused of attempted murder after allegedly firing a gun at a truck driven by his sister’s then-boyfriend. Prosecutors dropped all charges when Manjarres’ accuser “refused to cooperate by refusing to identify to view a lineup,” the court file stated.
Though he is the first Republican candidate in the district who has the resources to challenge Deutch — the America First Agenda Super PAC supports him — Manjarres faces steep terrain in a district Deutch won by 18 points in 2016.
The district broke for Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump by nearly 16 points that year.