From the mountains of Afghanistan to the jungles of Vietnam, from every American war have come new leaders. Men and women who went off to fight for their country and returned determined to play a role in its political future. Jeff Brandes is one of those veterans, a former army officer who served in Iraq and now represents Saint Petersburg in the state house.
Brandes says, "A lot of individuals respect military service, and it puts you in a different caliber in their mind for a lot of reasons, simply because you have that service and you've been deployed and you've served overseas."
When it comes to campaigning for public office, a military record means a lot more than just a couple of lines on a resume. It also signifies a devotion to the kind of honor and discipline many voters want more of in their government, but when politicians lie about having served in the military, Senator Don Gaetz says voters are defrauded. That's why he has a bill that would fine candidates five thousand dollars for being dishonest about their record.
Gaetz says, "When veterans run for office, they're accorded a kind of respect that is earned and well-deserved, but it would be inappropriate, it would be wrong, and I want to make it illegal, for somebody who hasn't served in the military to claim that honor as a way of trying to get a political advantage."
Here in Florida, there hasn't been a documented case of a candidate lying about military service, but just last year, Connecticut's attorney general took heat for fudging the facts about whether he went to Vietnam.
For Gaetz and Brandes, the mere potential for that to happen here is reason for action.
"It's a matter of public trust."
It's a whole new 'call to duty.' Not on the battlefield, but in Florida's halls of power.
The recently-filed bill would only make it illegal for candidates to lie about whether they've served in the military.
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