The final debate between the Republican primary candidates in Florida’s 18th congressional district race occurred at the WPTV Channel 5’s studios in West Palm Beach this past week.During the debate, double-amputee Army veteran Brian Mast and Attorney Rick Kozell went at each other over the whole algae pollution issue that has gripped south Florida.
Mast took issue with Kozell for saying that the combat veteran’s campaign took and kept cash donated to it by the sugar industries.
Mast turned to reporters and stated,” wow, you can tweet this out: real POS right here,” as he pointed at Kozell.
Kozell asked Mast, “What’s that mean?,” prompting an angry Mast to respond,” look it up,” adding “they said I couldn’t swear on TV.”
Mast fired back.
“He kept the money for a year,” Kozell said. “Then, he went on the radio and he lied about it.”
“Rick, what you just said is a flat-out lie,” Mast said. “I returned every single penny they contributed to my campaign. If you’re willing to lie to somebody today to get elected, what would you be willing to say to be re-elected?”
Mast did receive donations from the sugar industry, but then returned them. According to sources close to the Mast and Kozell campaign, at the beginning of his congressional campaign, Mast stole away Kozell’s fundraiser, Teresa Dailey.
Dailey opened the sugar door for Mast, and it is fair to assume that she would have done the same for Kozell.
To be honest, anyone in this race would have probably taken the money. No one foresaw the pollution disaster that is currently taking place.At the time Dailey jumped ship, the likes of Kozell-backer Gay Gaines, as well as Kozell himself, hounded Dailey for going over to Mast. Numerous communications via text and email were sent to Dailey badgering her decision to move.
The bad blood between Mast and Kozell started with this campaign shake-up, but then quickly escalated when Kozell told a prominent Palm Beach County Democratic elected official that Mast only wore shorts to exploit his prosthetics. Later it was learned that some of Kozell’s financial backers, namely one, said that “he is only running on his legs,” or lack of them.
This same supporter is said to have later stated that “the next congressman” in that congressional district “will have legs.”
Here is what we first reported:
On a disturbing note, several Palm Beach residents, who has asked that we not use their names in this story, are saying that one of Mast’s congressional opponents and his or hers financial backers, are pushing the narrative that “he is only running on his legs,” and that the reason why Mast wears shorts is to exploit his prosthetic legs.The issue came up again during a Republican forum held at Florida Atlantic University.
I’ve heard rumors for sometime, but Rick Kozell has never had the courage to say anything to me directly. The fact that I wear shorts, not having two legs, this isn’t something that defines my campaign.” -Brian Mast
Rick Kozell was prompted to go on defense, calling out Mast for running with a rumor that he says was “unsubstantiated, and categorically denied the accusations, saying that he never said that about Mast.
According to the aforementioned elected official in Palm Beach County, Kozell’s claim that he didn’t say that about Mast is false.
Watch the exchange between Brian Mast and Rick Kozell.
There is no clear frontrunner in this race, but it appears as if it will come down to Mast, Negron, and Freeman. Kozell campaign appears to be dead on arrival.