Image: Wasserman Schultz
Evan Vucci  /  AP
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz represents a liberal district that includes a stretch of South Florida from Fort Lauderdale to Miami Beach.
updated 10/9/2009 3:18:58 PM ET 2009-10-09T19:18:58

A South Florida Republican said it was a mistake to shoot at a target with the initials of the Democratic congresswoman he is trying to unseat.

Candidate Robert Lowry made a brief statement to a local newspaper but refused to speak further Friday about the incident, which happened Tuesday during a weekly GOP meeting held at a gun range.

Organizer Ed Napolitano defended the gathering, as well as the use of targets that appeared to be gunmen with traditional Arab head scarves.

"That's our right," said Napolitano, president of the Southeast Broward Republican Club. "If we want to shoot at targets that look like that, we're going to go ahead and do that."

Lowry declined to comment to The Associated Press. He initially told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that shooting at a target with the letters "DWS" — a not-so-veiled reference to Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — was a "joke," but then said it "was a mistake."

His campaign manager, Chris Leggatt, said Friday: "I don't think we need to make any further comment about it. It's an issue that's been addressed."

Wasserman Schultz, who made headlines earlier this year when she announced she had been secretly battling breast cancer, represents a liberal district that includes a stretch of South Florida from Fort Lauderdale to Miami Beach. She is expected to easily win re-election, though Lowry and three other GOP candidates are vying to face her.

The congresswoman declined to comment. A spokesman, Jonathan Beeton, said "We didn't feel that behavior dignified a response."

Both Lowry and Napolitano said they were unsure who scrawled "DWS" on the target the candidate fired at during the event, which attracted about 50 people.

Many of the targets were basic silhouettes, though others were figures wearing traditional Arab head scarves, called kaffiyeh, and holding rocket-propelled grenades. Napolitano said the faces of those figures appeared to be white, though he understood why they would be assumed to be Arabs. He said critics of the event are simply angry that a Republican minority continues to exist in such an overwhelmingly Democratic area.

"I absolutely have no regrets. I don't care what the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or any of them say — I know that they're offended by the simple fact that we're here and we won't go away and we won't be quiet," he said. "For the Democrats, who are supposed to be the party of minority rights, they're not being very sensitive to our rights."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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