The two leading Republican candidates looking to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson took off the gloves Thursday and ripped into each other on a range of issues.
Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux took aim at U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, bashing the congressman for a mailer sent out to Floridians outside his district.
“I’m calling on Connie Mack the Fourth to write a check out of his Senate campaign to reimburse the taxpayers for his blatant misuse of their money,” LeMieux said in a conference call with the media Thursday afternoon. “This mailing was sent to people who are not in his congressional district, directly benefiting his Senate campaign. Also, Mack should apologize to the people of Florida who received this mailing because it has the indicia that it is official government business.
“When the mail vendor covered the costs of the franked mail, Mack received what is in effect a $17,000 campaign contribution from a corporation," LeMieux insisted. “Mack is profiting from his own wrongdoing by receiving a free mail piece that went to 57,000 Republican households across Florida.
“It is not a coincidence that the mail piece went to Republican voters," continued LeMieux before noting that the mailing included details of Mack’s proposal to reduce the size of the federal government 1 percent each year until the budget is balanced. Mack and other supporters of the proposal have dubbed it the “Penny Plan" which is how LeMieux referred to it.
“It is not a coincidence that the mailer features the focus of Mack’s campaign for the U.S. Senate, the Penny Plan,” LeMieux said. "And it is not a coincidence that it features Rand Paul whose endorsement was rolled out in conjunction with this mail piece. It is not an honest mistake; it is a coordinated campaign effort."
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who endorsed Mack on Wednesday, has been a longtime supporter of the Penny Plan.
The Mack team responded by releasing a letter from U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., the chairman of the Congressional Franking Commission, written on Thursday. Schock wrote to Mack that the vendor who sent out the mailing made an “unintentional error” and reimbursed the government for the mistake. “This is an unfortunate mistake that does occur from time to time,” wrote Schock. “You have complied with the law and no further action will be taken by the Franking Commission.”
Mack attempted to open up another line of attack against LeMieux on Thursday, insisting that the former senator backed a 16 percent sales tax in Florida. In making the attack, Mack noted that LeMieux had close ties with former Gov. Charlie Crist who remains a persona non grata with Florida Republicans for abandoning the GOP to continue his failed campaign for the U.S. Senate back in 2010 with no party affiliation. LeMieux served as Crist’s chief of staff and was appointed to the U.S. Senate by his old ally. Despite his ties with Crist, LeMieux eventually backed the Republican nominee -- Marco Rubio -- who beat out the then-governor as did Mack.
“George LeMieux seems to be reverting back to being the Charlie Crist Republican he publicly bragged of being,” Mack said on Thursday before looking to drive a wedge between LeMieux and Rubio. “Last week he denounced Marco Rubio for the senator’s rejection of the RESTORE Act -- a measure that would have raised taxes and increased spending, and today he endorsed raising Florida’s sales tax to a nation-leading 16 percent. It’s appalling.
“In the midst of one of the worst recessions in America’s history – after siding with Obama on his failed jobs plan, attacking Marco Rubio, and now supporting a 16 percent sales tax – George LeMieux is showing his real colors and is proving to be precisely the Charlie Crist Republican he brags of being,” Mack added. “There are many reasons why George LeMieux is wrong for Florida, but today’s support for a 16 percent sales tax must stun even the ‘lockstep liberals,’ Senator Bill Nelson and President Barack Obama.”
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.