ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The leading Republican candidates to replace Rep. Charlie Crist in Congress went head-to-head on Tuesday — not on the campaign trail, but in the Pinellas County Courthouse.
Anna Paulina Luna, the Republican nominee who lost to Crist in 2020, filed for a stalking order last week against Will Braddock, one of her opponents in next year’s primary.
Luna says her friend, Erin Olszewski, recorded Braddock on the phone earlier this month making several threats to kill Luna, leading both of them to pursue an injunction against him.
On Tuesday morning in court, Judge Doneene Loar allowed Luna and Olszewski’s hearings to be consolidated for speed, though both cases are still separate. Braddock asked for more time in the case to review discovery, including the phone call recording, which the judge granted.
In an exclusive interview with 8 On Your Side, Braddock said he’s never threatened Luna and has nothing against her, but wouldn’t deny unequivocally that it was him on the tape.
“I cannot answer that, because I haven’t heard the tape yet,” said Braddock. “I don’t know if it is me, if it’s been altered or edited in any way, because supposedly the person that recorded it is an investigative journalist, so that person clearly has access to editing software.”
Braddock refused numerous times to admit whether it was his voice on the tape.
“I’m not going into details,” Braddock said. “It’s still an open investigation on a federal and local level, and I still have 2 injunctions open against me.”
Luna’s filing mentions Amanda Makki and Matt Tito, two potential candidates for the congressional seat. Luna’s request for preliminary injunction states “[Braddock] is working alongside Makki and Tito to ‘take me out.’ He verbally clarified that means he intends to kill me.”
Makki was in court Tuesday with her attorney. After the hearing, 8 On Your Side asked her directly if she was part of a plot to kill Luna.
“I am not, and have never been,” Makki said. “I have no idea [what this is about].”
Makki said she knows of Braddock and Tito because they are all candidates.
Braddock later claimed he spoke to Makki and Tito “at least once a week” about the race and strategy to beat Luna. Makki and Tito independently denied this claim — both said they had only spoken to Braddock on a few rare occasions, when he approached them at public events.
Both sides must submit their preliminary witness list by Friday at 5 p.m. Discovery items are due to the court by June 29 at 12 p.m., should any party wish to add witnesses after discovery, a revised witness list is due to the court by July 2 at 5 p.m.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for July 9 at 10 a.m.
Updated to include responses from Makki & Tito with regard to Braddock’s claims.