The 7th Congressional District primary battle pitting Republican Reps. Sandy Adams and John Mica is starting out as a contest of fire and ice.
The freshman Adams turned a flamethrower on Mica Thursday, saying, "I don't believe in backing down because someone tries to bully me out of a race."
Mica, a 10-term congressman, coolly deflected the broadside before formally announcing his campaign for CD 7, centered mainly in Seminole, Orange and southern Volusia counties.
"The districts belong to the people of Florida -- not politicians meeting behind closed doors. That's hard for some people to accept," Mica told Sunshine State News.
Mica said he told Adams "in advance" of his plans to run in CD 7. "She had been asking me every day for the last month when I would make my decision."
Some argue that Adams ignited the conflagration when she announced for CD 7 on Jan. 31. The newly drawn Central Florida district contains Winter Park, Mica's longtime residence.
"While nobody wants to see two Republicans battle for the same seat, I don't believe in backing down because someone tries to bully me out of a race when our country needs strong fiscal conservatives to stop business as usual in Washington," Adams said in a statement.
"My track record as a grassroots conservative is one that the people of Central Florida believe in. They know Washington, D.C., is broken, and that sending a career politician back to Congress, so he can start his third decade of service, is not the right answer."
Adams, a former state representative and retired sheriff's deputy, is sure to garner a share of conservative tea party support in what might normally be an uphill fight for a freshman.
"CD 7 is going to be the Barnburner," predicted one longtime Republican strategist speaking on condition of anonymity.
"It'll come down to TP vs. DC. Mica will have the money but Sandy might be able to nationalize it."
Patricia Sullivan, head of the statewide Tea Party Network, praised Adams for "doing more than I thought she could do [in Washington], and following through on campaign promises.
"I'm actually delighted Mica is running against Adams. He needs to go, and she is the woman to get that job done," Sullivan said.
"Pledging to conduct "a positive campaign," Mica said he was "not going to engage" Adams' allegations.
"Things don't always add up to what's being said," he added.
Adams announced her decision to run in CD 7 hours after Republican Craig Miller dropped his U.S. Senate bid to seek the House seat in neighboring CD 6. That district, which runs northeast out of Orlando, encompasses roughly half of Mica's current district.
"Everyone has to make their decision on where to run," Mica said. "I consulted with my wife, friends and supporters." Among those consulted were campaign contributors -- some of whom have donated to both Mica and Adams.
"I like both of them, but that's the breaks when you get into a redistricting fight," said one observer of the upcoming primary race.
Moving forward, Mica said, "People are interested in a positive campaign, and what you can do."
The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee touts his voting record, which the American Conservative Union rated at 100 percent.
"You can't find anyone who's more conservative with the money than I am," Mica asserted.
Mica said he was particularly excited about recent passage of a long-term authorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration and highway funding legislation, which, he noted, contains "no deficit spending, no earmarks and no tax increases."
"People talk about fighting in Washington. I'm interested in getting things done for the people. I won't be a part of nasty campaigning," the congressman said.
But Adams' supporters aren't shy about going negative.
"[Mica's] claim to fame, in my opinion, is that he proved Rick Scott could not be held for political blackmail on the high-speed rail issue," said one Adams fan, referring to Mica's maneuvering for the controversial project vetoed by the governor.
Others blasted the congressman for pushing the equally controversial SunRail commuter train, which Scott approved.
Geoff Ross voiced the sentiment of many tea party conservatives in declaring, "Mica needs to retire. He has become a career politician. As a tea party leader, I would support Mrs. Adams as a fresh face and a bold new change of the same old party line."
But Ross added, "I do not think she can beat Mica. My guess is that Mica wins."
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.