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Police, candidate uncover campaign-inspired crime on Twitter

CLEARWATER, Fla. — COVID-19 put Florida House Representative Chris Latvala in the hospital for 12 grueling days.

“This was definitely was the toughest thing I’ve ever done,” Rep. Latvala told ABC Action News in September.

The Republican from Clearwater hit the campaign trail Monday after spending nearly six weeks on the sidelines recovering from the virus.

“This really is my first week back at it,” said Rep. Latvala.

Rep. Latvala is seeking re-election for Florida House District 67.

In his first few days back on the trail, Rep. Latvala confronted a Twitter troll who admitted to stealing and damaging one of his campaign signs.

“I enjoyed removing and destroying @chrislatvala signage from a high visibility area on Ulmerton Road,” the tweet said.

The Largo Police Department quickly caught on to the campaign-inspired crime and responded Friday morning, “Thank you for documenting the crime.”

“I thought it was pretty ironic that literally, the guy was admitting to committing a crime and then the Largo PD account chimed in,” said Rep. Latvala.

A back and forth went on via Twitter with the user claiming he did nothing wrong because the sign was on private property.

ABC Action News has learned, The Pinellas Realtor Organization gave the Latvala campaign permission to place its sign on their property.

“Many of these candidates rely on volunteers to go out and put all these signs up so people are giving their time and energy to a candidate whose platform they support and to see all their work going for not just because somebody’s angry or hateful,” said ABC Action News political analyst, Dr. Susan MacManus.

ABC Action News reached out to Rep. Latvala’s opponent, Dawn Douglas, on Friday for comment on the crime. Douglas said the theft and damage are unacceptable.

“If you can’t win an election with integrity and honesty, then you shouldn’t be elected,” Douglas said.

Rep. Latvala said he looks forward to the final few weeks of the campaign and hopes this is a lesson in civility.

“Whether you’re a republican or democrat, you need to have respect for each other and that’s one thing this country is missing is respect on both sides of the aisle,” said Rep. Latvala.

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