State Politics

DeSantis’ Miami-Dade coordinator criticized over comments about Kavanaugh accuser

Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speaks to the media at Florida International University in Miami on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.
Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis speaks to the media at Florida International University in Miami on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. AP

Florida Democrats are calling for Ron DeSantis’ campaign to fire a woman who was, as of March, his Miami-Dade County coordinator after she said during a CNN interview that it’s possible Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, was only bitter he didn’t return her affections in high school.

The Democrats’ press release came just hours before The New Yorker published the account of a second woman, a college classmate of Kavanaugh’s named Deborah Ramirez, who accused him of exposing himself during a party and thrusting his genitals in her face.

The CNN interview of several Republican women voters in Florida featured Lourdes Castillo de la Peña, whom the Times/Herald quoted in March as the campaign’s Miami-Dade coordinator.

She, along with the rest of the interviewees, said she does not believe Blasey Ford’s accusations: that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed at a high school party and tried to rape her, while covering her mouth so she could not scream.

lourdes castillo de la pena mug.JPG
Lourdes Castillo de la Peña Miami Herald file photo

De la Peña went on to say that perhaps Blasey Ford had a crush on Kavanaugh in high school but he didn’t return her feelings, causing her to become “bitter.”

“Perhaps maybe at that moment she liked him and maybe he didn’t pay attention to her afterwards and he went out with another girl and she got bitter — or whatever the situation is, they’re kids,” de la Peña said.

De la Peña was also listed back in December as being on DeSantis’ finance leadership team, an informal group of early, high-profile backers to DeSantis’ then-budding campaign.

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While in Oldsmar on Monday, DeSantis said he had “no response” to Castillo de la Peña. He said he didn’t have a campaign finance committee, so therefore he didn’t have anyone on it.

“We did have people help informally,” DeSantis said. “We may do one at some point. People can say what they want. It’s a free country.”

Democrats had jumped on the comments earlier.

“Lourdes Castillo de la Peña’s attacks on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford were horrifying and have rightfully drawn national condemnation,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo wrote in a statement Sunday evening. “DeSantis should immediately fire de la Peña from his campaign and denounce the shaming of victims of sexual assault.”

Kavanaugh, whom President Donald Trump nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court, has categorically denied both accusers’ allegations. A hearing is set for Thursday for Blasey Ford to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam C. Smith contributed to this report.

GOP Candidate Ron DeSantis promotes his gubernatorial campaign and his push in Congress to indict Raul Castro in Little Havana during the Inspire America Foundation Anniversary Gala.