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Mike Haridopolos Encounters a Hornet's Nest at Tea Party Manatee

State Senate President Mike Haridopolos' appearance at Tea Party Manatee's "Meet the Candidate" night wasn't exactly a love fest. In fact, it was about as chippy as a Heat-Bulls playoff game.

While the U.S. Senate-hopeful gamely defended his record at Tallahassee, the Bradenton audience zeroed in on the 2011 Legislature's failure to enact an E-Verify immigration bill.

After the Merritt Island Republican reminded the crowd of 75 that the Senate passed an E-Verify bill, and reiterated that he is not a "dictator," tea party member Judi Hood fumed:

"No one is buying his blame game. We all know he could have passed Senator Alan Hays' SB 518 (a stand-alone mandatory E-Verify bill) early. It would have been a good, easy, clean match with Representative Gayle Harrells E-Verify bill and could have passed quickly."

Instead, Hood said Haridopolos "allowed [Sen.] J.D. Alexander excessive floor time to try to convince all the senators that E-Verify was flawed. He then put Senator [John] Thrasher, who has no facts on E-Verify, in the position of defender of the mandatory E-Verify, instead of Senator Hays.

"Id call this a setup,' just like the Republican leadership has been doing for all the past sessions while Haridopolos has been there."

Haridopolos has said that the state budget and government reform were his top priorities -- not immigration legislation.

But immigration activist George Fuller called the senator on that point and others. In a letter he dashed off to Haridopolos after Tuesday's set-to, Fuller wrote:

"You were in my face on the importance of inclusion of all the side issues, which masked the intent and confirmed defeat, which was to ensure all new hires would be legal workers. You, sir, threw the 1 million unemployed workers in the state under the bus by your actions as leader."

As for Haridopolos' U.S. Senate prospects, tea partier Peggy Martin delivered her own version of realpolitick:

"When Harry Reid, whom I dont agree with, wants something passed in the U.S. Senate, he offers sweetheart deals. ... So why didnt Haridopolos offer some kind of incentive to the four [senators] he said really defeated the bill?

"If Senator Haridopolos doesnt know how to get a bill through the Florida Senate, then the people of Florida really need to be very concerned before voting for him."

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