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Congressional candidate Melissa Martz holds AR-15 rifle with baby doll strapped to back in campaign ad

Gun-toting campaign posters attracting plenty of attention
Posted at 10:30 PM, Jun 23, 2022

LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. — A self-proclaimed "patriot and a Constitutionalist" is running for Congress with the goal of defending the Second Amendment rights of those who live within her district.

Melissa Martz is a Republican candidate challenging U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., for his congressional seat in the Aug. 23 primary election.

Martz said Monday that she was motivated to seek office after an "awakening, personally, of the tyranny that we are under from our local and our federal government," specifically mentioning the "unconstitutional" mask mandate that Palm Beach County instituted during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

During an interview with WPTV, Martz explained why she felt it was necessary to have her voice heard in Washington.

WATCH: WPTV's conversation with Melissa Martz

Melissa Martz says she's running for Congress to protect children, Constitution

"This is about preserving and restoring our republic for the future generations," she said, holding a copy of the U.S. Constitution in hand. "I believe we're on the precipice of losing everything that's written here in our Constitution if we don't stand up in this time."

But it's her campaign advertisement that seems to be catching people's attention.

The posters along Seminole Pratt Whitney Road in Loxahatchee show Martz holding an AR-15 rifle with a baby (it's a doll) strapped to her back.

Martz said she's a staunch defender of the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment.

"Our Second Amendment right has been hijacked to be about school shootings and your everyday mugging or preventing against rape," she said. "That's actually not what our Second Amendment is about, and when you look at the school shootings and gun crime in general, we have a problem, and the problem we have is not with our firearms or our Second Amendment. It is a mental health issue."

close-up of 'Vote Martz' ad featuring Melissa Martz holding AR-15 rifle
Republican congressional candidate Melissa Martz isn't just holding any gun in her campaign advertisement. It's an AR-15 rifle, which was the same gun used in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

But what about the baby? Martz said the image was inspired by a real-life experience.

"When I was a single mother, I had a home invasion," she said. "A man was beating down my door. I held my 10-month-old baby on my hip and held my firearm, pointed at the door, until the police came. So, again, this is not actually what our Second Amendment is for, but that is not just an image I threw up there just for the sake of throwing it up there. I mean what I say when I stand for children and protecting our children and protecting our Second Amendment right, and I have had to pull my firearm to protect my own child."

On one of the posters, an American flag was waving. But others had been vandalized. One such defaced poster had the message "God hates guns" scrawled on it with Martz's face scribbled on to look like the devil.

'Vote Martz' Melissa Martz campaign sign with 'God hates guns' and devil horns scrawled on it
A campaign ad for Republican congressional candidate Melissa Martz has the message "God hates guns" scrawled on it just above where she's holding an AR-15 rifle and devil horns drawn on her head. This defaced sign is located along Seminole Pratt Whitney Road in Loxahatchee.

"Brian definitely supports her First Amendment right to put up these signs," Brad Stewart, a spokesman for Mast's reelection campaign, told WPTV in a statement. "But it's honestly not something he has given a lot of thought to. His focus is on what he can productively do to serve the community."

Parents who spoke to WPTV didn't agree with the ad.

Jacquelyn Bevilacqua called it "absolutely delusional."

"I personally was offended as far as a female, especially from Florida, having attended (Marjory) Stoneman Douglas (High School), which we all know went through a mass shooting. The weapon that was in her campaign is actually the weapon used in all mass shootings."

Abigail Langweiler said Republicans like Martz "have to use shock value to appeal to anyone that is their base because they are out of touch and out of step with what parents and communities actually want."

Martz said she hopes her ad campaign leads to a larger conversation about guns and schools.

WPTV DMA Congressional District Map