GOP Senate Hopefuls Spar Over Conservative Credentials

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: May 3, 2012 3:55 AM
George LeMieux and Connie Mack

George LeMieux and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack

The two leading Republicans looking to take on incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November -- Connie Mack and George LeMieux -- looked on Wednesday to showcase their conservative credentials and tie themselves to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the most popular GOP leaders in Florida.

One of the leading conservatives in the Florida Legislature -- Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala -- announced Wednesday that he is backing  former U.S. Sen. LeMieux for the Republican nomination.

Baxley, who led the Christian Coalition of Florida and represents parts of Marion County, stressed LeMieux’s conservative credentials in his endorsement and played up the fact that former presidential candidate Herman Cain announced Friday that he is backing LeMieux.

“Today I am proud to join Herman Cain and 31 other state legislators and endorse George LeMieux for U.S. Senate,” said Baxley, who served as speaker pro tempore when Rubio was speaker of the Florida House. “George is a faithful husband and father, and has a solid pro-life, pro-family, pro-free enterprise, pro-Second Amendment voting record. He is the most competent candidate we have to beat Bill Nelson.”

Baxley directed heavy fire to LeMieux’s chief rival for the Republican nomination -- namely U.S. Rep. Mack whose father held the Senate seat for 12 years.

“Connie Mack IV is not his father,” insisted Baxley. “Mack has an abysmal personal financial legacy, attacked Arizona for addressing its illegal immigration problems, and supports embryonic stem-cell research. I served with Connie in the Florida House and love him dearly, but he has performed poorly and is not ready to lead. Nelson will tear Mack apart if he is the Republican nominee. George LeMieux is the only candidate who can defeat Nelson and we must stand with George to take back the Senate in November.”

LeMieux was not shy about highlighting Baxley’s time in the Florida House leadership under Rubio.

“Representative Baxley has an exceptional history of serving Florida and its conservative community,” said LeMieux. “Dennis did a tremendous job as Senator Rubio’s speaker pro tempore in the Florida House and I am honored to receive his endorsement in my bid for U.S. Senate. Bill Nelson currently cancels out every vote Senator Rubio casts and it is time to retire Nelson and send a true conservative to Washington.”

But the Mack campaign fired back, pointing to an interview LeMieux did on NewsRadio 162 0AM in Pensacola earlier in the week, in which the former senator said he would have backed the Democratic version of the transportation bill, canceling Rubio’s vote against it. The RESTORE Act, which would ensure that fines from the Gulf oil spill would be used in the region, was added to the bill.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, the Republican congressman who represents the Panhandle in Congress, took aim at LeMieux’s comments on Wednesday. Miller, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has endorsed Mack.

“I am extremely disappointed that George LeMieux indicated he would have voted for the Senate Democrats’ version of the transportation bill,” said Miller. “Although the RESTORE Act is a critical provision for those areas affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Senate version of this bill contains a massive tax increase and redirects $1.4 billion to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, creating a huge federal power grab. The House version of the transportation bill that Rep. Mack and I supported did not contain the tax hikes or land grabs of the Senate bill, yet still supports the affected areas of the Florida coast.”

Miller looked to throw some cold water on LeMieux’s conservative credentials.

“Floridians need to be careful that we don’t replace a big-government Democrat in the Senate with a big-government Republican,” Miller said. “Connie Mack is the conservative we need in the Senate.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

Comments (2)

Andrew Nappi
5:39PM MAY 4TH 2012
With all due respect, both of these candidates, and their endorsers are full of sour owl dookie. It is sickening to hear the phrases such as "true conservative" and "real conservative" vomited by these big government statists. How many of these "true conservatives" are familiar with the theoreticians of American conservatism? Not the original entertainer Bill Buckley and his successors, Limbaugh and FOX News, but M.E. Bradford, Russell Kirk, Joe Sobran, Robert Welch? Probably none of them, or most of the electorate for that matter.
What these people consider "conservatism" is GOP agenda talking points. Limbaugh talking points and any anti democrat party talking points. Neither Mack or Lemiuex, or any member of the RPOF for that matter would know REAL conservatism if they tripped over it in broad daylight. Pap spewing sops for the masses is all they are. Not one of them is committed to the Ratifiers constitution, or the Founders economic and foreign policy. Whatever today's Republicans are, they are NOT conservatives.
Conservative R voter
7:08PM MAY 3RD 2012
Connie Mack IV is not a 'conservative' in any sense of the word. Dennis Baxley is right.

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