In a race that has seen several twists and turns, Connie Mack IVs landslide victory in the Republican Senate primary Tuesday came as a surprise to very few. The four-term congressman from Fort Myers will face Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in the Nov. 6 general election.
A year ago the Republican primary seemed a virtual two-way between Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, and Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach. Haridopolos dropped out of the race in July 2011, returning after the 2012 legislative session to private life, where he continues to teach political science at the University of Florida. Hasner bowed out of the race the following February, and ran unopposed in Tuesdays Republican primary for the states 22nd Congressional District.
Mack, who had endorsed Haridopolos candidacy, entered the race in October citing his conviction that no remaining candidate, including Hasner and former Sen. George LeMieux, was a suitable challenger to popular two-termer Nelson, who succeeded Macks own father, Sen. Connie Mack III, in 2000.
Mack quickly soared to front-tier status, a position he consistently maintained. As of June 18, he polled about 38 percent in the Real Clear Politics averages, far ahead of challengers LeMieux (10 percent), Col. Mike McCalister (6 percent), and latecomer Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Indialantic (5 percent). LeMieux dropped out in June, citing his low fundraising returns and Macks refusal to engage him in public debate.
Many considered LeMieux tainted by his former associations with former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. LeMieux had been appointed by Crist to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the early retirement of Mel Martinez, R-Orlando. Crist defected from the Republican Party and became a registered independent after it became clear he would lose the 2010 Republican U.S. Senate primary to Marco Rubio, R-Miami. Crist endorsed Nelson shortly after LeMieux dropped out of the race, and is rumored to be considering a gubernatorial run as a Democrat in 2014.
With a 93 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, Mack has earned a reputation as a staunch conservative, having voted against congressional bipartisan majority-supported legislation like TARP, the auto and bank bailouts, and the 2008 and 2009 stimulus packages.
Hes also a favorite among civil libertarians, distinguished from his partys mainstream by his vocal opposition to both the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, over concerns for privacy rights and potential violations of constitutional due process for American citizens suspected of terrorism. Hes been an outspoken defender of activist whistleblower Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks website, and received the endorsement of libertarian stalwart Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
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