Republican Reps. John Mica and Sandy Adams -- locked in a battle for Central Florida's 7th Congressional District -- are trading barbs over who's raising the most money and where.
Adams, a freshman from Oviedo, says Mica raised less than 1 percent of his campaign cash from residents of his district.
Mica, a 10-term veteran and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, counters that Adams relied heavily on out-of-district contributions during her campaigns for the Florida House.
A Mica spokesman said that of "more than 10,000 individual contributors throughout his career, 6,500 are from Central Florida."
As for Adams' assertion that she pulled in more money than the congressman in the past year, spokesman Alan Byrd said Mica "has intentionally not approached people in the district about fundraising in non-election years."
In a race that is drawing national attention for pitting two incumbent Republicans against each other, the Mica-Adams match-up presents an intriguing contrast of insider versus outsider.
Adams, who rode a wave of tea party fervor to oust Democratic Rep. Suzanne Kosmas in 2010, is a darling of the GOP conservative base. And Adams touts her homegrown financial support, noting that Florida residents contributed $203,374 -- more than one-third of her $596,345 total -- in the last campaign cycle.
By contrast, Adams' camp contends that Mica raised most of his money from outside the state. That could prove problematic, according to an analysis by Politico, which noted some recent history:
"The story line of a transportation chairman who cashes in everywhere but home is a familiar one. It helped Republican Chip Cravaack of Minnesota score an upset over Democratic Chairman Jim Oberstar, a 36-year House veteran, in 2010."
But Adams might think twice about throwing stones at Mica on political contributions.
During her decade of raising funds as a state legislator, only 686 of 3,971 campaign contributions came from ZIP codes within her district, according to records reviewed by Sunshine State News.
For the same period, Mica received 4,688 donations, 1,585 of which came from ZIP codes within his district.
Recently, Adams joined several other GOP freshmen for a high-dollar fundraiser at the posh Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo. Donors reportedly paid $10,000 apiece for the privilege of meeting the candidates.
A CBS News report on the event said of the candidates: All need to come up with big dollars to buy TV time. They get that by wooing special interests willing to pay a lot of money for special access.
Some political observers have been scratching their heads over Mica's decision to fight Adams in the 7th District.
Though the Winter Park resident explains that his home is in CD 7, he leaves a majority of his current constituents in the newly configured CD 6, a northeast coastal district that is more heavily Republican.
That could mean a tougher run for the veteran lawmaker.
Recently, Mica has been reaching out to tea party and patriot groups -- Adams' perceived base -- to burnish his own conservative bona fides. Revealing the close quarters of this race, he and Adams independently showed up at the same restaurant at the same time to meet with constituents last week.
This week, Mica contrasted his House committee's transportation budget with spending plans put forward by the Obama administration and Senate Democrats.
He hailed the House package for returning more money to the states while eschewing the "smoke and mirrors" funding ploys in the Democratic proposals.
"The House proposal condenses the project-review process to half the time, cuts red tape, allows concurrent agency reviews of projects, sets hard approval deadlines and delegates more authority to states," Mica said.
"No other measure before this Congress can more positively affect our economy."
Mica's critics question how his agenda will play in a primary dominated by conservative voters who want government outlays reduced at all levels -- immediately. Though the House's five-year appropriation spends far less than the White House plan and slightly less than the Senate alternative on an annual basis, it's still $260 billion in continued spending by a Congress that is digging the country deeper into debt.
Adams, for one, takes a dim view of Mica's formulation.
"With the national debt topping $15 trillion, Congress owes it to the American people to be responsible stewards of their hard-earned money. Unfortunately, this bill falls short of that," said Adams spokeswoman Lisa Boothe.
Boothe said HR 7 "would take general revenue funds, which should be going to reduce our nations deficit, to pay for the portions of the bill that arent funded by the Highway Trust Fund, which was originally created to fund all federal surface transportation projects.
"The congresswoman is still waiting to see which legislation the House will ultimately consider, Boothe said.
While Mica has been criticized by some Republicans for promoting the controversial high-speed "Obamarail" project (rejected by Gov. Rick Scott) and the Orlando area's $1.2 billion SunRail commuter line, Adams will have trouble gigging him on the latter project since she voted for it when she was a state legislator.
If there's a cautionary tale for Mica, it's U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzingers victory over 10-term Illinois incumbent Don Manzullo this week. Even though Manzullo enjoyed tea party backing, he couldn't hold off the 34-year-old freshman congressman.
Yet there's a difference, too. Kinzinger was buoyed by support from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and there's no indication at this point that the National Republican Congressional Committee is playing favorites in the CD 7 contest. The NRCC's spokesman declined to comment for this article.
For all of Mica's supposed baggage as a career lawmaker, he has remained reliably anti-union, anti-tax and scandal-free. As such, political strategists say Adams may not be able to bank on hard-line conservatives to coalesce around her and propel her to victory.
"I'm not seeing a lot of tea party activity, and polls I've seen show it will be tough for Adams to win," one GOP consultant said privately.
But Sarah Rumpf, another Republican consultant who lives in the Orlando area, observed, "There's across-the-board frustration about the way Washington works, and things not moving fast enough. Sandy Adams speaks the tea party's language better than John Mica does."
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.