U.S. Senate Primary Draws to a Close Next Week
Even though Florida's U.S. Senate primary will be decided next week, for months political watchers are saying its outcome won't be a surprise. Republican Connie Mack looks to be the likely winner on August 14th, thanks to large leads in numerous polls, while democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is virtually unopposed. But 90.7s Mark Simpson reports there is field of other candidates who hope their appeal could clinch the victors spot.
Let’s start with the headliners. On one side of the ring Congressman Connie Mack. He’s served in Congress since 2004 when he was elected to represent the Fort Myers area’s district 14.
Throughout nearly a year of campaigning Mack has placed his focus not on the Republican rivals he hopes to defeat next week, but instead on Democratic general election opponent Bill Nelson and President Obama, "I’m tired of a federal government and Senator Nelson voting as lockstep liberals in Washington DC, but then they come to the state of Florida and act like they’re moderate democrats."
Mack’s biggest draw might be his name, Connie Mack the 4th. His Father Connie Mack the 3rd was a well known Florida U.S. Senator, and his great grandfather, the legendary baseball manager.
Speaking recently with NPR Mack linked his fate to another big political name, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, "Look if Mitt Romney wins I win, if I win he wins, and so we’re going to be tied in this election just like Obama and Nelson are tied. They’ve got a voting record that’s 95% of the time so you can’t get away from that."
Taking a big picture view of the contest highlights why former republican Congressman Dave Weldon got in the race. He says, " It really is the circumstances of the country more than anything else, this isn’t a career move for me."
He served in Congress until 2009 when he returned to his private medical practice. But after months of waiting on the sidelines Weldon jumped in the race in late May, further stirring up a contest that at that time had 4 other candidates.
With only a few months of campaigning under his belt Weldon racked up numerous conservative endorsements. He’s also been endorsed by editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times, one of the state’s biggest newspapers….the move infuriated the Mack campaign……and launched a barrage of angry letters from the campaign aimed at newspaper’s political editor Adam Smith.
It Prompted these remarks from Mack at a campaign event near Tampa... "Adam? How are ya? Good to see yuh. Some of us know that Adam is really the communications director for nelson’s campaign. But we welcome you here anyways, let’s give him a round of applause."
Meanwhile, Weldon isn’t letting personal politics get to his head. He remains focused on coming up with ideas to improve the economy, " as I see it, it’s a two step process. You get the economy going again, you get revenue in to the treasury up because the economy is going now, and you reform and you have to cut spending ok."
Top issues for the GOP field include repealing the Affordable Care Act, making the U.S. more business friendly, and bolstering economic growth.
Dave Weldon’s not the only candidate staying focused on issues instead of personalities. Former Army Colonel Mike McCalister says, "Discussing someone else doesn’t make you more qualified for anything and it certainly doesn’t solve our problems."
He is getting support from a number of Tea Party groups.
Despite trailing in third place behind Mack and Weldon, McCalister is keeping a busy schedule, criss-crossing Florida speaking to groups eager for his conservative message, :You go out and you try to make sure you’re getting your word out, but you also try to help people stay abreast or become aware of issues that are of great significance and importance to our country and future generations."
Also scrapping for tea party votes is Marielena Stuart. The linguist and interpreter is based in Ave Maria, near Naples. She did win a Pinellas county straw poll two months ago, but her campaign hasn’t gotten much statewide traction.
So republicans volley without acknowledging each other, and Bill Nelson, the democratic incumbent who’s served in the U.S. Senate since 2000, waits for the results of his own democratic primary.
He’s being challenged by Glenn Burkett a health consultant from Naples. Burkett is making a second run for Senate, but isn’t spending any money on adds.
Nelson’s attitude toward the process is measured, like the cadence of his voice, "What I am just trying to do is get ready for the general election, I do have a primary as well, you know what I’ve said all along is the best politics is just to try to do a good job."
And it’s likely a good job is what lots voters will be thinking about when they cast their ballot hoping their candidate can help fix a struggling economy.