Mike McCalister, Stressing His Conservatism, Formally Enters U.S. Senate Race
Around the State
Mike McCalister, a businessman and retired Army officer, kicked off his bid Wednesday for the Republican nomination to take on U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012.
McCalister, who took more than 10 percent when he ran for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010, was widely expected to enter the race. He had filed paperwork as early as September 2010 indicating that he intended to run for the Senate, and he had been touring the Sunshine State for months speaking to conservative and Republican organization.
"I've spent the last six months traveling the state to assess whether I would have the support necessary to wage a serious campaign for the United States Senate," said McCalister on Wednesday. "After meeting with numerous Republicans, tea party supporters, 9/12 Project members, fellow veterans, and other conservatives from throughout Florida, it is evident to me that my 'lower tax, smaller government' message is resonating with voters."
McCalister faces a crowded primary field and he has been firing away at three of his rivals: former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, state Senate President Mike Haridopolos and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner. He has labeled the three of them the “Tallahassee triplets,” stressing that, with his background in the military, education and business, he has the right experience for the campaign trail and the Senate.
"I am the only conservative candidate in the race with the experience and qualifications necessary to defeat Bill Nelson,” claims McCalister. “My background and personal life experiences have prepared me to confront the serious economic and global threats facing America today.”
Fresh from a strong performance in a speech at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans earlier in the month, which garnered him some high praise from activists and observers, McCalister stressed his conservative credentials.
“I will be Florida's biggest advocate for jobs, lower taxes, smaller government, an end to Obamacare, a secure border, and a strong military,” said McCalister.
With the second quarter of fundraising ending Thursday, McCalister’s team -- and he has brought on some experienced Republican operators -- sought to downplay expectations about how much cash the campaign is bringing in. They noted that the campaign will focus on raising money in the fourth quarter of 2011.
McCalister pulled almost 131,000 votes in the 2010 primary, taking 10.1 percent of the vote -- far behind the two other candidates, businessman Rick Scott, who won the nomination and later the governorship, and then-Attorney General Bill McCollum.
While McCalister continues to keep his sights focused on LeMieux, Haridopolos and Hasner, there are several other candidates with more experience in the private sector than the public one who are also taking part in the Republican primary. They include Bill Fisher who ran for Congress in 2010, businessman Ron McNeil who has run for Congress twice before, businessman Ron Rushing and Miranda Sharma, a physician and Ron Paul supporter.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, businessman Nick Loeb who ran for a state Senate in 2010, and former Ruth's Chris CEO Craig Miller who ran for Congress in 2010, have left the door open to entering the Republican primary contest.
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