Politics

Three-Way GOP Battle to Take On Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Looking to ride anti-incumbent wave, Republican candidates bash congresswoman on health care and the economy
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: July 1, 2010 4:05 AM

While U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz represents what appears to be a safe Democratic district, three Republican candidates have emerged to take on the incumbent.

Tightly packed in southeastern Florida, the district brushes against Fort Lauderdale and some of the surrounding towns including Wilton Manor, Plantation, Weston, Dania Beach and Aventura. Wasserman Schultz has generally been seen as a safe incumbent -- winning 77 percent of the vote in 2008 -- in a Democratic district where John Kerry and Barack Obama pulled more than 60 percent of the vote in their respective presidential campaigns.

Despite this, Republicans Karen Harrington, Robert Lowry and Donna Milo have launched bids to knock off the incumbent -- hoping to tap into the anti-incumbent mood shaping the national political landscape.

“It’s not just an anti-incumbent mood for Debbie,” said Milo. “Her base is moving away from her.”

The Harrington campaign is hoping their candidate’s small-business experience and decades in the district will help propel her to victory in the Aug. 24 primary election.

Harrington, who has run Rickey’s Restaurant and Lounge for 30 years, has played up her experience, saying her background in small business would serve her well in Congress.

“As a lifelong fiscal conservative and small-business owner, I am very sensitive to the legitimate concerns of small businesses in this uncertain economic climate,“ said Harrington on Wednesday. “My firsthand experience dealing with the challenges that small businesses routinely encounter -- from having to meet a payroll, to adjusting business operations to coping with increasing costs and smaller margins -- gives me a great appreciation of the challenges and risks that are undertaken by small businesses.”

A cancer survivor herself, Harrington has been critical of Wasserman Schultz’s high-profile espousal of new federal health-care laws backed by President Barack Obama.

“As a two-time cancer survivor and a mother of a cancer survivor, I am also intimately familiar with our health care system as well as the benefits and shortcomings of our insurance system,” said Harrington. “I have consistently stated my opposition to the recently enacted government takeover of our health care system since its inception. I am committed to work toward the repeal of  ‘Obamacare’ and replace it with a real reform that expands Americans’ access to the health care system that will drive down the cost of insurance and health care services without sacrificing the overall quality and responsiveness of the health care system.”

Robert Lowry, who owns a nursing home facility, is also running for the Republican nomination. Lowry, who calls himself a constitutional conservative, is being sued by a former employee who claims he was dismissed due to backing one of the other candidates in the race.

“It’s very disappointing that it is becoming politics-as-usual,” said Lowry in a statement on Tuesday, commenting on the lawsuit. “Attacks like this are why good people often refuse to run for office. This attack is an attempt to distract me from the campaign. I refuse to be bullied, and my company will be vindicated.”

Lowry has some impressive endorsements from former military officers as well as political groups like the Republican Majority Campaign PAC. He has waged a busy campaign and held appearances in the district almost every night in June.

Born in Cuba, Donna Milo, who works in the construction industry, said she saw similarities between the communist nation her family fled and the policies of the Obama administration.

While Milo has been getting attention for being transgendered, she stresses that she is a conservative. “I am a lifelong conservative Republican,” said Milo. “I am proud to say that I voted for Ronald Reagan.”

Milo blasted Wasserman Schultz for supporting the Obama administration on economic and international issues, noting that Jewish voters in the district are not happy with the congresswoman for backing the president’s policy on Israel. She said that voters were increasingly unhappy with Washington -- and Wasserman Schultz.

“The voters are not being heard,” said Milo on Wednesday. “The government is serving itself. People are concerned about spending.”

While the Republican candidates and their staff said they were doing well with fund-raising, Wasserman Schultz has a significant advantage in fund-raising -- having raised more than $952,000 by March 31, the end of the first quarter of 2010. This includes a whopping $596,653 in PAC money.

The Harrington campaign raised more than $55,000 at the end of the first quarter of 2010 and the candidate herself loaned $50,000 to the campaign. Lowry raised more than $19,000 and loaned his campaign $11,000. Milo started her campaign late in the quarter and did not report any activity for the first quarter.

“We’re all business people,” said Milo as she kicked over her bid and her two Republican rivals’ campaigns. “We’re all victims of the failed policies of the current administration. We knew we would not be able to raise money. These are true grass-roots campaigns.”

The candidates are also united by their opposition to Wasserman Schultz, branding her as out of touch with the voters in the district.

“We see more and more examples of the present political class attempting to control, patronize, and lecture the very people who elevated them to their positions of power,” said Harrington. “I believe that it is vital for every elected official to treat their constituents like adults, not children, and it is incumbent on them to act within the constitutional limitations that were explicitly designed to protect the people’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

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


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