Officially Entering Senate Race, Mack Calls Nelson, Obama 'Lockstep Liberals'

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: November 29, 2011 10:17 AM
Connie Mack

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack | Credit: Gage Skidmore - Flickr

In a widely expected move, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack announced on Monday night, on an appearance on Sean Hannity‘s show on Fox News, that he was entering the Republican primary to challenge Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012.

Mack talked to the media on Tuesday morning to explain why he is running.

The congressman took a pass at jumping in the race earlier in the year, throwing his support behind state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island. When Haridopolos dropped out of the race, Mack rethought his decision and entered the race.

On Tuesday, Mack said the nation is facing severe problems and Nelson is not helping the situation.

“We’re moving in the wrong direction,” Mack said. “We’re moving in the direction of Greece and Italy.”

Mack slammed Nelson as one of President Barack Obama’s “leading guys in the Senate,” criticizing the incumbent senator for backing the president on the federal health-care law and stimulus spending.

Asked about his late start in the race, Mack said he did not see it as a problem and pointed to his primary rivals, who, he maintained, are not gaining much in the way of traction.

“They haven’t been able to accomplish much in that year,” Mack said.

Mack defended his previous comments against the Arizona immigration law while insisting the nation needed better border control.

“We need to get stronger and tougher on our borders,” he insisted, calling for “more border patrol agents” and completing “the double-layer fence.”

Mack, whose father held the Senate seat for 12 years before Nelson beat Bill McCollum in 2000, took aim at Nelson in a statement released on Monday night, arguing that he and Obama have been “lockstep liberals."

“Liberal Senator Bill Nelson’s tireless support of President Obama has put our nation in great peril with the belief that government can spend its way to prosperity,” Mack said. “President Obama and Senator Nelson have fought together in lockstep for one failed liberal policy after the next, putting the security of this nation on the brink by spending taxpayer dollars on programs Americans cannot afford and do not want.

“When Barack Obama wanted to pass his nationalized health care over the objections of most Americans, Bill Nelson was there fighting by his side, not once but three times,” Mack continued. “When Barack Obama wanted to pass his wasteful and failed stimulus packages, Bill Nelson was there fighting by his side. When Barack Obama wanted to foist cap-and-trade on the American people, Bill Nelson was there fighting by his side. When Barack Obama wanted to give new special deals to labor unions, Bill Nelson was there fighting by his side. When Barack Obama wanted to recklessly raise the debt ceiling and wildly increase spending, Bill Nelson was there fighting by his side.

"Bill Nelson has become Barack Obama's closest friend and ally in the United States Senate. Together, these 'lockstep liberals' are imperiling the future of our country and hurting the people of Florida. We can and must do better,” said Mack in closing. “My candidacy offers Floridians a true conservative alternative that puts our state and our country back on the road to prosperity with a track record of fiscal conservatism; a foreign policy that leads and knows our friends from our foes; a fiscal plan to balance the budget and restore our economic freedom; and the proven willingness to fight for our principles, no matter who is in the White House or who controls the Congress. The days of Bill Nelson’s liberal, big-government programs are over.”

Mack drew heavy fire from another GOP hopeful -- former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.

"Congressman Mack's record of supporting wasteful Washington spending, billions in earmark spending, and taxpayer-funded embryonic stem-cell research stands in stark contrast with what Florida Republicans are looking for in their next United States senator,” Hasner said in a statement released Monday night. “If the last decade has shown us anything, it's that the problems in Washington can't be fixed by the same establishment politicians who helped create them in the first place."

Other Republican hopefuls in the race include former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, retired Army officer and businessman Mike McCalister and restaurant executive Craig Miller.

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

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