A U.S. Army veteran running for Congress in Florida is co-sponsoring a bipartisan initiative to lower the petition requirements and fees for candidates to get on the 2020 ballot, as campaign dollars dry up and nobody’s on the street to sign candidate voter ballot petitions.
Michael Bluemling, Jr., a Sergeant in the Kosovo War, veteran rights advocate, author and candidate for Congress in Florida’s 21st district, is the Republican co-sponsor to the initiative developed by Cindy Banyai, a Democrat candidate for Congress in the 19th district.
So far 35 state and federal candidates have signed on to their request sent on Thursday to Florida Republican Governor and Naval Officer Ron DeSantis and Secretary of State Laurel Lee in Tallahassee.
The petition is asking the state to consider easing the ballot requirements, including extending the filing deadline, lowering the $10,440 filing fee and requirements for petition signatures equivalent to 1% of the voters in the district.
As of the weekend, there had been no official response yet. The Governor would have until April 20th to modify the rules, though the co-sponsors expected a decision sooner.
In response to the pandemic, New York state lowered the petition signature requirement by 70% as campaigns were ordered off the streets, and other states followed suit.
In Florida, the high filing fee is especially daunting for new candidates now that a third of the country was technically laid off this month as stores and companies close to prevent the spread of the Corona Virus.
“Thirty-three million Americans went on unemployment this month and the stock market is tanking,” Bluemling told Quartermaster News. “A big campaign donor just told me, and this is a direct quote, ‘My IRA and 401k took a direct hit and I need to tighten the belt.'”
For the state of Virginia, he led the Virginia Values Veterans Program, helping to create over 30,000 jobs for veterans inline with the governor’s initiative. For three years, he ran Founded Power of One, a veteran-owned coaching service to help veterans and people in transition, and even wrote a book on the subject, Bridging the Gap from Soldier to Civilian: A Road Map to Success for Veterans, before closing the company to focus on his campaign.
“A fierce advocate for our veterans and their families, fighting for their present and future,” in his own words on his campaign website, Bluemling worked for the Department of Labor and Department of Veteran Affairs after his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army.
As Sergeant during the Kosovo campaign and America’s war on terrorism, he received the U.S. Army Commendation Medal and two U.S. Army Achievement Medals, the U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal, the Kosovo Campaign Medal, and the NATO Medal.
He’s running to unseat Democrat career politician Lois Frankel, who served 16 years in the Florida state house from its 83th district and then eight years from its 85th district, eight years as Mayor of West Palm Beach, four years in Congress representing the 22nd district and the past three years representing the 21st.
Florida’s 21st district is one of the wealthiest in the country, on the “Gold Coast” of Southeast Florida, which includes the “Winter White House,” Mar-a-Lago.
Frankel ran unopposed in 2018, but now she has six Republican challengers hoping national sentiment in favor of a Republican White House will help make up ground against her name recognition and campaign war chest.
Bluemling’s opponents for the August primary include Christian Acosta, who has the endorsement of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly Florida chapter; former Secret Service and IRS agent, tax expert and businessman Michael Villardi; business consultant Victor Garcia da Rosa; homemaker Liz Felton; and 26-year-old guerrilla journalist Laura Loomer, best known on social media for getting booted from “Squad” press conferences and handcuffing herself to the front door of Twitter’s New York headquarters.