Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who remains one of the most popular Republicans in the Sunshine State, announced Wednesday that he is throwing his allegiance to U.S. Rep. Connie Mack in the Republican primary fight to take on Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
Bush’s endorsement came hours after former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux filed his paperwork in Tallahassee to make the August primary ballot. Other candidates seeking the nomination include former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon and businessman and retired Army officer Mike McCalister who pulled more than 10 percent in the Republican gubernatorial primary back in 2010.
“Connie Mack is the principled conservative that the people of Florida deserve representing them in the U.S. Senate,” Bush said in a statement.
The former governor, who many Republicans hoped would challenge Nelson himself, praised Mack‘s conservative credentials.
“Connie has the courage, conservative values, experience and determination to confront the tough issues facing our nation,” Bush said. “We must return conservatives to the majority in the U.S. Senate. Connie is the person Floridians need in Washington working with Senator Marco Rubio to reduce our national debt and limit out-of-control spending.”
“I am truly humbled to receive the support of Governor Bush, a man whose service and dedication to this state serves as an example to anyone in public service," Mack said. “His tireless efforts on behalf of Florida’s children, particularly in the area of education, are unmatched, and his strong support in communities across Florida is a testament to his leadership ability. It is an honor to call Jeb Bush a friend. I thank him for his support and his leadership, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him in the months and years ahead.”
On Wednesday morning, LeMieux, who has been taking aim at Mack on a number of fronts, filed his paperwork in Tallahassee to make the primary ballot.
“There’s no more important race in Florida,” LeMieux told the media on Wednesday. “I hope the people will give me the chance to serve again.”
LeMieux dismissed polls that have show Mack with a large lead over him and the rest of the field. The former senator claimed that Florida voters know Mack’s name due to his great-grandfather who was a legendary baseball manager and his father who held the Senate seat for two terms before Nelson won it in 2000.
“I’m running against 100 years of name recognition,” LeMieux insisted. “A lot of Floridians have not focused on the race.”
LeMieux also claimed his campaign had been “very frugal” and would be ready to go toe to toe with Mack in terms of media buys.
“We have as much money as Connie Mack IV has in the bank,” LeMieux maintained before ripping into his opponent for opposing the Arizona immigration law and calling him a “big spender.”
LeMieux sent out an email to supporters letting them know he would be on the primary ballot and issued a statement insisting that he had a record that would appeal to conservatives.
“After more than a year of traveling the state, speaking at Lincoln Day dinners, winning grassroots straw polls and visiting with Republicans, I’m proud to file my qualifying paperwork to be included on the ballot for the U.S. Senate primary,” LeMieux said. “Our country is on an unstable fiscal path with our national debt and deficit continually increasing and piling onto future generations. When I served in the Senate, I watched as career politicians avoided the tough decisions, focused only on re-election and let our debt continue to grow, and that’s why I made reducing our debt my top priority, offered a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and proposed a budget that would revert spending back to 2007 levels. After seeing all that is wrong in Washington, I’ve pledged, if elected, to serve no more than two terms in the Senate.
“In order to preserve our great nation, we need people in Washington who are willing to make difficult decisions, propose bold solutions, and lead America toward fiscal responsibility. I am running for the United States Senate so the next generation of Americans will have the same opportunities to succeed that we were afforded,” LeMieux added.
In the meantime, the Mack team sent out messages to supporters trumpeting the endorsement from Bush. The former governor did his part for Mack, posting on Twitter that he was backing the congressman to take on Nelson.
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