State Democratic Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda is garnering attention for her recent comments on Donald Trump, calling his policies ‘fascinating’. But a local GOP leader thinks she’s pandering to conservative voters.
Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda does not support or endorse Donald Trump. But she does believe he’s raising important issues and transforming public discourse.
“Donald Trump just in his sort of…way, ripped back the veil. I do not agree with him on abortion, let’s be very, very clear, if that’s where he’s going. But the fact that we’re now talking about that and that it's something to discuss in open media, I think is important. I think the NATO bit is important. I think immigration in the way that he’s talked about it is important,” she said.
Breaking with the Democratic Party isn’t exactly new for Rehwinkel Vasilinda. In the 2016 Session, she was a strong supporter of the Campus Carry bill and the Pastor Protection Act, aimed at shielding conservative clergy who object to gay marriage. With term limits looming, she is considering a bid for Congressional District 2, a conservative tract which spans Panama City to Ocala. But Leon County GOP Chair Evan Power believes she’s fishing for Panhandle voters.
“Because she’s term-limited and she faces a reality where she can’t run for the House, the Senate isn’t open. And she’s looking at what her opportunities are and all of them tend to be a little more conservative than she’s represented, so she’s trying to reinvent herself with this Donald Trump movement that’s out there,” he said.
Rehwinkel Vasilinda does support a host of progressive issues: she favors environmental protection, abortion rights, abolishing the death penalty, and legalizing pot. But she says a conservative-leaning Democrat could have a shot at Congressional District 2, and she fancies herself that candidate.
“Even some of the issues that you might find traditionally democratic, I tend to be a sort of libertarian way of thinking about it,” she said.
But again, Evan Power says he’s not convinced, and neither are voters.
“The fact is that district is changed and it’s going to be heavily republican and conservative, republican-leaning, and I don’t think Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda is a libertarian or conservative-leaning Democrat,” he said.
Rehwinkel Vasilinda is still testing the waters and has not yet announced a bid for Congressional District 2.