UPDATED with response from Rubio’s Senate office
WEST PALM BEACH — Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, began his first full day as Florida’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate by appearing with the father of a wounded soldier who said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio‘s Senate office didn’t help him after his son was paralyzed in a training accident.
Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson‘s office didn’t help either, Tim Riney of Safety Harbor said at a news conference this morning.
But Riney said he’s angry at Rubio because Rubio recently began airing a TV ad touting his help for veterans.
Rubio’s Senate office this afternoon said it responded within two business days to Riney’s request and pursued the matter for six months — with Rubio himself sending a handwritten note to the younger Riney — until the father “indicated that no further action was needed from our office at the time.”
Timothy Riney Jr., now 26, is paralyzed from the chest down after a February 2015 accident that killed one other soldier in Colorado. Riney’s father said his family immediately encountered problems dealing with the Army and later with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The elder Riney said he reached out to Rubio’s office for assistance.
Riney said Rubio’s office took four or five months to respond with what he called a “form letter” that was unhelpful. Rubio’s office said it began working on the case on March 2, 2015 — two days after the younger Riney signed a consent form authorizing the Senate office to work on his behalf.
At the news conference with Murphy, a reporter asked if Riney had contacted Nelson’s office as well.
“I made an initial contact with Sen. Nelson but have not heard from them at all,” Riney replied. “I did not follow it up like I did with Sen. Rubio. I made two or three different calls and emails to Sen. Rubio before I finally got somebody.”
Asked why he pursued the matter with Rubio’s office and not Nelson’s, Riney said: “Because I knew he was going to run for president and I thought it would be more of a help to us.”
Rubio launched his presidential bid in April 2015 and scrubbed it in March after losing to Donald Trump in Florida’s primary.
Riney said after the news conference that he had also contacted Rep. David Jolly, R-St. Petersburg, and Jolly “was a tremendous help to us. But we needed more help.”
Murphy used Riney’s appearance to accuse Rubio of being focused on his political ambitions instead of his job.
“Marco Rubio could have been there for the Rineys. He could have put a family from Florida first. He could have made a difference. But he had other priorities,” Murphy said. “While Tim Riney was working hard to care for his son, Marco Rubio was working hard to get elected to the White House.”