When a Belgian Malinois named Gunner bit into a 9-year-old boy at a Florida fishing tournament earlier this month, it didn’t seem like the kind of incident that could have national political importance.
But now the dog attack has become an unlikely flashpoint in an intra-Republican battle over a hotly contested House seat, pitting Trump adviser Roger Stone and his allies against Trump-backed congressional hopeful Anna Paulina Luna.
The dog bite is the latest twist in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, a top Republican pickup opportunity that Rep. Charlie Crist (D) is giving up to run for governor. Crist’s exit has set off a primary scramble among Republican aspirants that has featured allegations of a murder plot, an expulsion from a conservative conference, and now an overly aggressive dog.
On Nov. 7, Luna and husband Andrew Gamberzky went to a beach in Madeira Beach, Florida, that was hosting a fishing competition. Gamberzky, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, brought Gunner, his psychiatric service dog. But as a group of children played football near them, Gunner lunged for the ball, missed and instead took a roughly four-inch-long bite out of a 9-year-old’s upper arm. The bite was deep enough that the officer reported seeing what appeared to be fat tissue visible through the cut.
“I spoke with Andrew, who stated when the incident occurred there were kids playing catch with a football in the grass area of the field,” a Pinellas County police officer wrote in a report reviewed by The Daily Beast. “The young boy who was bit, caught the football and walked / ran past his dog ‘Gunner.’ Gunner jumped towards the victim in what appeared to be a playful attempt to get the football from him.”
In a statement, Luna’s campaign said the dog “is sorry.”
“This unfortunate accident happened as Gunner was approached while working and was excited to play with the football the young man was playing with,” the statement read. “We wish the young man a speedy recovery and have been in correspondence with his Father, as well as offered to cover his doctor visit. Gunner also says he is sorry.”
The child’s father didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
Stone’s allies seized on the dog bite. In a post about the dog bite on social media app Telegram, Stone protégée Laura Loomer dubbed Luna “Anna Paulina Lunatic.”
“She needs to put her dog on a leash,” Loomer wrote. “They say people are a lot like their animals, and in this case, Anna and her dog are both CRAZY AND OUT OF CONTROL. Those b*tches both need to HEEL.”
Stone, who dressed as Luna for Halloween, sent The Daily Beast a list of articles attacking the candidate, describing them as “self-explanatory.” Asked by the Beast why he has become an outspoken critic of Luna, the long-time conservative operative “cordially” declined to comment.
The campaign attacks over the dog bite are just the latest bizarre twist in the race, which kicked off in June when Luna filed for a restraining order against rival candidate William Braddock, claiming he wanted to murder her. Luna’s case was bolstered when a Luna associate recorded Braddock in a strange exchange, discussing sending a “Russian and Ukrainian hit squad” to “disappear” Luna. Braddock hasn’t been criminally charged in the case.
“I do not feel safe, and I am currently in fear for my life from Mr. Braddock,” Luna wrote in a court filing.
Braddock eventually dropped out of the race. But in her court filings about the alleged murder plot, Luna also mentioned primary rival Amanda Makki and potential candidate and Stone friend Matt Tito as being involved in some sort of alliance with Braddock to foil Luna. Both candidates were angered by being mentioned in the filing, telling Politico in June that they had no connection to Braddock.
Tito, who has not officially entered the race yet, was further incensed in July when, he said, Luna got him kicked out of a Tampa conference for Turning Point USA because of their rivalry.
In Tito’s telling, Luna allegedly asked TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk to have him removed.
“She got me kicked out of a TPUSA event and lied to Charlie Kirk,” Tito told The Daily Beast. A request for comment to a Turning Point spokesperson went unreturned.
Trump’s September endorsement of Luna has infuriated her potential foes, as well as Stone’s camp.
“As more comes to light about Anna Paulina Luna, I think President Trump will realize she is not the standard-bearer for the America First movement that she has falsely claimed to be,” Stone protégé Jacob Engels told The Daily Beast.
But the Trumpworld drama and points of frustration don’t end there.
In Tito’s opinion, one of the many things that disqualify Luna from receiving the coveted Trump endorsement is the fact she is “banned from Fox for saying something inappropriate.” In 2018, Fox issued an apology on Luna’s behalf after she compared Hilary Clinton to “herpes.”
A Fox News spokesperson did not return a Daily Beast request for comment.
Tito stated he is “likely” to enter the increasingly tumultuous race, with Stone as his adviser.
“I mean, listen—this is a complete mess,” Tito said. “Somehow, someway Luna got Trump’s endorsement.”