Anna Paulina Luna, an Air Force veteran of Mexican descent, charts her Congressional path
Luna first ran an unsuccessful congressional bid in 2020 against Charlie Crist, but odds were in her favor this go-around for a number of reasons.
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Florida’s first Mexican-American Congresswoman for the 13th District is Anna Paulina Luna, a an Air Force veteran who rose through the GOP ranks after a 2020 loss led to a Trump endorsement and a redrawn district ripe for a run.
In her first run in 2020, she ran against Charlie Crist, the incumbent, in Democratically favorable territory in St. Petersburg, and lost.
But after the 13th Congressional District was redrawn to include Clearwater, Pinellas Park, Seminole and Palm Harbor, all Republican-leaning, Luna’s second shot at Congress seemed an obvious choice.
Before she became a political steward to former President Donald Trump, Luna was, for the most part, unknown.
She enlisted in the Air Force at age 19, where she served for five years before being honorably discharged with honors in 2014.
There were numerous factors at play. Luna’s loss to Crist gave thrust to a series of right-wing media appearances – including a high profile role as National Director of Hispanic engagement for Turning Point USA, a role she accepted in lieu of attending medical school, at the advice of a mentor, according to Luna’s campaign website.
Luna was simultaneously building a social media presence as a staunch conservative, according to her biography. She also joined PragerU, a conservative media outlet, as chairwoman of Hispanic initiatives.
But what propelled Luna’s political career, aside from a growing conservative bloc in Florida, was a coveted endorsement from Trump, thus making the roster for a then growing list of nominees stamped with Trump approval.
In September of 2021, Trump called Luna a “great fighter” who “puts America first.” Luna supported claims of a stolen 2020 elections, and believed Trump was the true winner, though proof has yet to materialize.
And Crist, who vied for a gubernatorial seat, was no longer a shield for a Democratically-held congressional district, and this served Luna’s second run well.
Trump’s endorsement, compounded with her growing media personality, set the stage for a successful primary against Kevin Hayslett, a former prosecutor and a purveyor of the right’s disdain of a “woke agenda.”
In a campaign ad, Hayslett criticized Luna as an Obama supporter, airing a clip that showed Luna in support of the former Democratic President’s immigration policy, tagging her as a Republican in Name Only (RINO), a term adopted by Republicans who’ve steered away from the Trump agenda.
Luna didn’t walk back the criticism, and noted that although she was registered as a Democrat she had not voted for Obama.
Hayslett was defeated in the primary by double-digits.
Comfortably sitting on an endorsement that solidified her position among the GOP, Luna faced off with Democrat Eric Lynn, a moderate and former National Security advisor who had hoped to tug conservative voters with a bipartisan sales pitch.
Lynn went after Luna’s abortion platform, donning her an “pro-life extremist” during a dead-heat moment in the race, where both candidates were neck and neck.
Luna’s campaign website – which writes of strengthened border security, no vaccine mandates, and support for law enforcement – does not address abortion. But in June, following a historic move by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Roe v. Wade, Luna tweeted in support.
“The Supreme Court has OVERTURNED Roe v Wade! We must stand FIRM in protecting the lives of the unborn. I will continue to fight for the pro-life movement and those that fight to protect the sanctity of life every single day,” she wrote.
Both nominees also battled it out on endorsements. Luna was backed by controversial U.S. Reps like Lauren Boebert, Byron Donalds, and Turning Point, her former employer. Luna, at some point of the campaign trail, toured with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a stalwart and defender of Trump.
And Lynn, whose endorsements were perhaps his trump card, rallied the support of former conservatives – including Beverly Young, the widow of former U.S. Rep. Bill Young, Bob Schmidt, the Republican Mayor of Belleair Shores, Jim Olliver, the Vice Mayor of Seminole; and former Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala.
Lynn also ran with a Crist endorsement, hoping that incumbent approval would fare well with voters.
But ultimately, the red wave that swept Florida also took Lynn out to sea, and brought Luna ashore, having defeated her Democratic opponent by roughly an eight-point margin.
“This fight is not over,” said Lynn in his concession speech. “We must hold our new representative in Washington accountable for the things that she has said. Hold Anna Luna accountable for what she said she would do stand up for veterans, protect Social Security and lower the cost for this community.”
Luna waltzes into Republican-friendly territory, where Florida achieved a rare trifecta; holding power in the governor’s office, and both chambers of the state legislature.