State Watch

Trump campaign says it didn’t hire armed guards outside Florida polling place

The Trump campaign is distancing itself from a pair of armed individuals who were camped outside a St. Petersburg, Fla., early voting location after reports that they were affiliated with the campaign.

Trump campaign deputy national press secretary Thea McDonald told local NBC affiliate WFLA that “the Campaign did not hire these individuals nor did the Campaign direct them to go to the voting location.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri also said Thursday that the two licensed security guards were not hired by the Trump campaign nor the Republican Party, CBS affiliate WWL reported.

County Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus had said Wednesday that early reports were that the pair outside the voting location had claimed to be with the Trump campaign.

“The Sheriff told me the persons that were dressed in these security uniforms had indicated to sheriff’s deputies that they belonged to a licensed security company and they indicated — and this has not been confirmed yet — that they were hired by the Trump campaign,” Marcus told WFLA.

The sheriff clarified on Thursday that the pair were licensed security guards from a local contracting company and because they stayed outside the polling location they didn’t violate any state laws, WWL reported. The sheriff added that he did not believe it was a case of voter intimidation. 

The company told the outlet that an “off-duty employee” was speaking with another person at the polling location when they were stopped by a local deputy. “The employee made it clear that they were not affiliated with the polling booth,” the company said.

Marcus said Gualtieri takes the situation of armed individuals at the early voting location “very seriously,” adding, “Voter intimidation, deterring voters from voting, impeding a voter’s ability to cast a ballot in this election is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any way shape, or form.”

Marcus is a Republican and is running to maintain her position as a supervisor after she was appointed to the position in May by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Gualtieri, a Republican, is also running for reelection.

President Trump encouraged his supporters during the first presidential debate last month to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.” The president’s call stoked concerns among some that early voting and Election Day could hold threats of voter intimidation at polling locations.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign issued a statement against intimidation tactics in the Sunshine State.

“In the United States of America, we cannot and will not stand for any behavior that could intimidate voters from participating in our democracy,” the campaign said in a statement reported by WFLA.

The statement added, “Our country stands for freedom, liberty, and democracy, and these scare tactics have no place in our state. It’s clear that those running scared will try anything in the closing weeks of the election. There are no excuses for this behavior. We are committed to making sure every Floridian can vote and every vote is counted.” 

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