Two weeks after Rep. Connie Mack (R.-Fla.) announced he would not seek the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012, Florida GOPers are still reeling in disbelief. The namesake son of the state’s much-loved conservative Republican U.S. senator from 1988 to 2000, young Mack had signed on top campaign and fund-raising operatives and a new press team. Polls showed the five-term House Member a favorite for the September 2012 primary, and signs were strong Mack would run for his father’s old seat.
But Connie Mack isn’t running, and his no-go is likely to be pondered by pundits for some time to come. Now, however, political eyes are on the remaining three contenders for nomination against Nelson: state senate President Mike Haridopolos, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, who served out the remaining 15 months of the term of Republican Sen. Mel Martinez (who resigned the seat that was won in 2010 by present U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio), and former state house majority leader and conservative swashbuckler Adam Hasner.
Although the Republican primary is 17 months off, there is strong evidence that 41-year-old Palm Beach lawyer Hasner gained the most from Mack’s exodus. With the exception of his criticism of Arizona’s law dealing with illegal immigration, Mack has a solidly conservative record in Congress (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 93.33%) and many on the Right also recall his father’s good-as-Goldwater voting record in the House and Senate.
Hasner doesn’t compare or contrast himself to anyone, but cites his record in the state legislature as a leader on conservative causes and issues. From fighting to eliminate the state’s property taxes to toughening Florida’s pro-life legislation, it was Florida House of Representatives Majority Leader Hasner—working with close ally and then-Speaker Rubio—who was the leading force in Tallahassee behind the measures.
In contrast, Haridopolos has served in the state senate, where many of the conservative items sent over from the house of representatives have died. The 41-year-old LeMieux was campaign manager, top aide, and chief adviser to the centrist former Republican governor Charlie Crist, who bolted the GOP to run for the Senate last year and lost to Rubio. Crist—“Judas Crist” to Republican activists—gave the vacant U.S. Senate appointment to LeMieux, whose role with the governor has been likened to that of Karl Rove to George W. Bush.
Both Haridopolos and LeMieux backed Crist for the Senate when he was still a Republican, while Hasner was one of the first elected officials to endorse Rubio. To no one’s surprise, both Haridopolos and LeMieux dub themselves “conservative” in this Senate race.
“I don’t have to reinvent myself,” Hasner told HUMAN EVENTS. “I have proven I have the courage to say what needs be said and do what needs to be done, even when it’s not popular. And in the U.S. Senate, you’d find I’d be the different kind of conservative leader I feel voters are looking for.” He went on to cite that he has already spoken out against the Obama Doctrine—“We’re less trusted and less safe than before he became President in foreign policy”—and against raising the debt ceiling—“I’m for a the Balanced Budget Amendment but not willing to trade raising the debt ceiling to get it.”
It is this kind of agenda and talk that has made Hasner a hero and much-in-demand speaker at the varied Florida Tea Party groups, “immeasurable in their numbers statewide,” as Hasner put it, and inarguably key to the nominations and elections of Sen. Rubio and Republican Gov. Rick Scott last year.
“I went to a 9/12 picnic recently and it drew more than 400 people—and on a Sunday!” Hasner told HUMAN EVENTS.“ I understand their message—enough is enough. We want leaders to tell it like it is, and if they can’t get the job done—then we will find those that will. And also about how 2010 was just the beginning, and these groups are as educated and energized as ever before. In 2012 its time for the next wave who are ready to fight to get the job done and restore America’s promise. That’s why I am running.”