Three candidates in the contentious Republican primary to replace former Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) are pressing a fourth, businessman Curt Clawson, to explain his ties to a convicted child molester.
"Now more than ever, we stand together to put politics aside to address some very serious questions that have been raised in this race. As candidates for the United States Congress – but more importantly as parents and members of this community - there is no greater priority than protecting our children from the violent predators who target them,” the candidates said in a release.
“Recent news reports have brought into question Curt Clawson's relationship with a violent child rapist in Utah. He has dismissed these news reports as politically driven, and that just couldn't be further from the truth,” they added.
The three are holding a press conference Wednesday afternoon to further discuss the connection, which was revealed in local news reports.
According to the Naples Daily News, Clawson bought the house in July of 2006 and gave Borst — a junior high friend of his — a “special power of attorney” over the property for 30 days. He said he was not aware of Borst’s conviction until reporters called, and called the focus on the issue “the wrong thing to do.
“The victim and the victim’s mother don’t want this, and these three should show more respect for the victim and the victim’s mother,” said Clawson.
The campaign has also posted audio of the victim’s mother decrying the focus on the incident in the race and asking for the scrutiny to stop. She says it’s “disgusting and shameful that these politicans would harass my family” to help their campaigns.
Clawson has drawn attacks from a handful of outside groups boosting other candidates as well, with some of those ads focused on his business career.
With little reliable polling on the race, it’s difficult to predict the outcome of the primary, but Clawson has been able to invest his own money on advertising in the race and has nabbed the support of the Tea Party Express.
Benacquisto, however, received the backing of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) in the race, and was recently endorsed by GOP Reps. Ann Wagner (Mo.) and Diane Black (Tenn.), both of whom touted her as the candidate that can protect “integrity.”
The candidates will all face off in a primary debate on Wednesday night, just hours after three are scheduled to hold their press conference on Clawson’s ties to Borst.