Last week, Florida State Senate President Mike Haridopolos announced he was ending his bid for the US Senate. Haridopolos’ departure leaves two major candidates in the race for the Republican nomination: former Senator George LeMieux and State Representative Adam Hasner.
Political commentators are portraying the showdown as a classic establishment versus grassroots struggle. LeMieux was appointed to the US Senate by then Governor Charlie Crist after the resignation of Sen. Mel Martinez. LeMieux also served as the chief of staff for Charlie Crist’s 2006 campaign for governor. LeMieux’s close ties to Crist have earned him the designation “a Crist Republican” by Hasner.
Crist remains a toxic name in Floridian Republican circles after he ditched the party in 2010 in order to avoid a Senate primary against now-Senator Marco Rubio. Crist, unable to admit defeat, mounted an independent bid. He seized the opportunity to rail against Republican policies, including the party’s pro-life stance. Bill Clinton even got involved in the race pressuring Democrat Kendrick Meek to drop out of the race to pave the way for Crist. In November, pro-life Republican Marco Rubio went on to defeat Crist and Meek by over 20 points.
Almost ad nauseum the 2012 Florida Senate race has been compared to 2010. In this narrative, LeMieux becomes Charlie Crist while Hasner takes on the character of Marco Rubio. While there is little daylight between Rubio and Hasner, there are stark differences between Crist and LeMieux.
Crist vetoed a bill, which would have allowed Florida to opt out of abortion funding under Obamacare and given Florida women the opportunity to view an ultrasound prior to an abortion. In 2010, Crist cited his pro-abortion position as a reason for his Senate bid asserting in a campaign ad; “I’m fighting to stop Marco Rubio’s extremist agenda to roll back Roe v. Wade.”
This is hardly comparable to LeMieux, who earned a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee for his pro-life record. In addition to LeMieux’s opposition to abortion, he supports Obamacare repeal. Serving in the Senate during the healthcare debate, LeMieux cast key votes against the pro-abortion Obama healthcare bill. LeMieux would be a reliable pro-life voice in the Senate if elected once again.
Rubio’s 2010 campaign energized pro-life advocates and conservatives who had been thrown under the bus by the pro-abortion Crist model of Republican. Hasner has also been able to harness some of this energy by striking an anti-establishment tone.
LeMieux did not even serve a full term in the US Senate and during his brief stint, took few controversial votes to make him unfit for conservatives. Yet, Hasner appears to be on the rise, raking in high-profile endorsements from conservative leaders.
Hasner enjoys the backing of Red State blogger Erick Erickson, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Tea Party organization FreedomWorks, Concerned Women for America and American Future Fund PAC.
No matter who ultimately wins the Republican nomination, the race will be a face-off between a pro-life Republican and a pro-abortion Democrat. The eventual GOP nominee will face pro-abortion incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D). In 35 scored votes by the National Right to Life Committee, Nelson voted 34 times against the pro-life position. Nelson’s voted for the pro-abortion Obama healthcare law, for taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research, for taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.