FL-08: Ric Keller vs. Charlie Stuart

One would think that an incumbent House Republican running in a recently GOP-redrawn district in which he carried 60% of the vote in 2004 would be considered out of target range for even the most hopeful of Democrats this fall.

Left-wing chatter in cyberspace about the Orlando-based district has picked up steam in recent weeks. Republican Rep. Ric Keller first won the district in 2000 in a photo finish, edging his Democratic opponent by about 4,000 votes. Since then, he has been re-elected with more than 60% of the vote each time. Why, then, do Democrats have the 8th District of Florida in their crosshairs?

Democrats are primarily encouraged by accusations made against Keller that link him with disgraced Washington, D.C., lobbyist Jack Abramoff. These charges from his 2006 Democratic opponent, businessman Charlie Stuart, have their roots in a $1,000 contribution made by a former Abramoff operative. However, once that operative pleaded guilty to corruption charges, Keller promptly sent the donation to charity. Keller says he has “never met Jack Abramoff, let alone accepted money from Jack Abramoff.”

Despite Stuart’s bold assertions that Rep. Keller’s campaign is “part and parcel of the corrupt Washington Machine,” Keller points to not only his own integrity, but a glaring irony as well. “Charlie Stuart accepted a $4,200 donation from Frank Amodeo, an attorney who was later disbarred and convicted on forgery charges,” says Keller, “ In addition, Mr. Amodeo organized a fundraiser for Stuart, bringing home nearly $10,000 in total funds raised.”

In contrast to Keller, Charlie Stuart has refused to return any of Amodeo’s money.

For the Stuart campaign, policy differences seem to have taken a back seat to personal criticisms. Keller (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 97%) though, jumps at the chance to make the distinctions clear. He notes, for example, “I am strongly pro-life, my opponent only in rhetoric. I want to make President Bush’s tax cuts permanent. My opponent is opposed to the tax cuts and wants to tax crude oil by $1 per barrel.” Keller is considered by National Review the most conservative member of Congress from the Florida delegation.

A true conservative with a track record, Ric Keller’s re-election this fall is a “must” for true conservatives everywhere.