Man with Waynesville ties seeks U.S. Senate seat in Florida

By Vicki Hyatt | Oct 12, 2016
Howard Knepper is a write-in candidate for a Florida U.S. Senate seat.

A man with Waynesville roots is challenging the entire election process in Florida as he strives to earn a spot in the televised debates this month.

Howard Knepper is running for the U.S. Senate in Florida. He is a Republican, and is running as a write-in against Sen. Marco Rubio, also a Republican, and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.

Knepper was 9 when father came to Waynesville to take a job as the national sales manager for Wellco. The family remained in the county until he was 16.

After moving to Florida, Knepper pursued a career in the mortgage industry and has built a successful business as a property manager in the Miami area.

He has purchased several properties and has plans to retire in Haywood County.

He’s running an aggressive campaign, with television ads in major market areas, and has a campaign website. He understands he’s bucking the tide because his name won’t be appearing on the ballot and his advertising budget pales in comparison with the resources being funneled into campaigns of the mainstream candidates.

Still, Knepper believes he would have a chance if he could be included in the televised Oct. 26 debate.

He’s waging a legal challenge to be included in the debate, arguing that since the debate will be broadcast on the public airways, the Federal Communications Commission rules apply, as does a Florida Supreme Court ruling that write-in candidates must be treated like any other candidate.

“I’m fighting very hard to get on the debate stage,” he said. “The Florida Press Association is organizing it and they will fight me hard. It’s not a matter of what the press thinks or what the pollster said. The Florida Supreme Court believes a candidate should be treated equally.”

The press association stipulates that an individual has to have polling numbers of at least 12 percent to be included in the debate, a threshold Knepper said is almost impossible to achieve for candidates with limited resources.

While Knepper said his name could have been on the ballot had he chosen to run as unaffiliated with a party, he said he became “obsessed with going in as a Republican.” He was not on the Republican primary ballot as he selected the write-in option for the General Election.

Knepper isn’t the only Senate candidate who is excluded from the televised debate. Others in the race include Iraq war veteran Paul Stanton (L), and eight other independent and write-in candidates.

“About the only hope is the FCC,” he said.

Knepper said he has practical solutions to many of the problems facing the nation, including better-trained police officers; more support for children who are abused and neglected; better animal rights laws; and laws to better protect those who are victims of elder abuse and domestic violence.

“We have to break up the gridlock between the Democratic and Republican leadership,” he said. “The senator from Florida needs to be a person who truly cares about other people; has a great understanding of how our government works; and an understanding of politics. We have to be the leader of the world. Russia and North Korea are becoming aggressive. Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon. We need tougher Homeland Security and we need to do something to stop 200,000 people a year from dying from drug problems.”

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