MELBOURNE — In a congressional race that might otherwise be an uneventful re-election stroll for incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, Democratic nominee Gabriel Rothblatt is drawing attention for family connections that are fueling his run with money.
Congressional District 8, which covers Indian River and Brevard counties and part of eastern Orange County to Bithlo, has a solid Republican-leaning voter base and a long history of backing Republicans.
Rothblatt, 31, of Melbourne Beach, attracted national campaign ethics scrutiny this month when a political action committee called SpacePAC began supporting him with billboards and other signs.
The super PAC was founded and funded by his parents, Sirius satellite radio founder Martine and Bina Rothblatt of Satellite Beach. It is raising questions in national media, including the New York Times and USA Today, about how the organization complies with laws forbidding PACs from running "independent" campaigns, which can raise and spend as much money as they want, and having any coordination with candidates.
The Rothblatts each insisted they comply by never talking to each other about it. "We take the firewall very, very seriously," said his father, Martine Rothblatt
Yet the race may be more unusual for what else Gabriel Rothblatt draws from his parents.
Martine Rothblatt founded a religion called Terasem Faith, based on the belief that technology soon will make possible human immortality and that God is technological and "will ultimately connect all consciousness and control the cosmos."
She (Martine Rothblatt underwent transgender surgery in the 1990s) also founded a biotechnology company researching ways to do that, including transferring human psyches into robots.
Gabriel Rothblatt said he is an active member in the church. And until he filed to run for Congress last year, he was an administrator managing the church's real estate.
He stresses down-to-Earth beliefs and values. He is Jewish, saying Terasem is a "spiritual rider" to traditional religion. As a candidate, he talks most about private space technology and development, education, jobs, environmental protection, personal responsibility and family values. He and wife, Taj, have been married 13 years and have four children.
"Terasem is not a religion. It is all religion," he said. "If you walked into the middle of one of our services, you'd think you were in a monastery, or maybe a yoga session," he said. "You are asked to not leave your original faith, but to bring it into the conversation."
The core of his belief is that people must think for themselves, and he stresses the need to adopt a philosophy of lifelong, year-round education for all.
"What I believe is we need to teach people how to think, not what to think," Rothblatt said.
Political responses have been mixed.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Katie Prill wrote, "It's clear that Rothblatt is wasting his time and his family's millions in his quest for Congress because his radical ideas are too extreme for Florida families."
But Posey's spokesman, George Cecala, offered instead, "It all comes down to the real issue, and that is Bill Posey is a conservative and Gabriel Rothblatt is a liberal. People should look at that issue and make up their minds."
Beth McMillan, chair of the Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee, said Rothblatt's faith in technological immortality is not a concern. "He's not the first person to believe that. … I'm not saying it will happen. But who am I to say it won't happen?
"He's our candidate," she said. "We support him."
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