Florida Dems target Rep. Southerland for late tax payments

Southerland is president of Machriste, Inc., which paid property taxes on a number of properties late at least 27 times from 1995 to 2012, according to records from Florida tax collectors. And in 2006, the lawmaker took out a loan valued at between $100,001 and $250,000 to buy a 32-foot boat, as reported in his personal financial disclosures.

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Florida Democratic Party spokesman David Bergstein characterized the late payments as "refus[ing] to pay his own taxes on time," and said that this was evidence of what a "typical politician" he is. 

"And just like a typical politician he's become, Southerland continues to show the people of north Florida that he's out of touch with our values: complaining about his $174,000 a year salary and even buying a luxury boat instead of paying his taxes on time," he said in a statement.

It's not a race that was initially on the list of battleground districts, but Democrats believe it's competitive. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a mid-September poll earlier this month that had Southerland in a dead heat with Democratic challenger Al Lawson, and both the DCCC and the National Republican Congressional Committee have already spent thousands on the race.

But this is an issue that was raised in 2010 by Rep. Allen Boyd (D) during a bitter fight between the two. Then, Boyd launched an ad charging that Southerland "did not pay his taxes" every year from 2005-2009. That ad was rated "False" by Politifact Florida, and the attack didn't seem to gain traction, as Southerland defeated Boyd with 52 percent of the vote.

Southerland campaign spokesman Matt McCullough said that the reason those taxes were paid late was because the congressman "put paying his employees and keeping the lights on first," and then paid his taxes, and called the attacks "desperate."

"You would think that after PolitiFact debunked this laughable attack two years ago that the Democrats would realize that this dog just won't hunt. When will they ever learn? For the Democrats to roll out an attack from 2010 that has already been proven false shows just how desperate they are and how little they have to work with," he said.

This time around, however, Bergstein said that 2nd District voters have gotten to know the congressman and realize this is part of a larger trend for the Republican.

"This has become part of a pattern for Southerland. It's a pattern that Southerland has shown that he's looking out for himself instead of the people of North Florida," he said.

Bergstein added that "this won't be the last Southerland hears about this boat."

—This post was updated at 4:50 p.m.