‘D.C. or Bust’: Hasner’s Switcheroo Shrinks Florida Senate Race
By Zayida Baker
Republican candidate and former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton, asked a Perry audience January 23 to send him to the U.S. Senate. He decided days later to switch races.
At a meeting hosted by the Taylor County Republican Executive Committee, Hasner proclaimed that he wanted to win the Senate “not just with a Republican majority, but with a conservative majority.” He planned to be the only candidate to visit all 67 of Florida’s counties. He said that “being a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-freedom conservative is not always the easiest thing” in his home base of Palm Beach County, “the bluest part of the state.”
Hasner encouraged the audience to send incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson the same message they sent former Democrat Rep. Allen Boyd in 2010 when he was defeated. “The Blue Dog Democrat is an extinct species.” Hasner pointed to Nelson’s 98-percent party-line vote for measures such as the stimulus, ObamaCare and tax increases.
“The crisis that we are in as a country was not just created by Democrats; Republicans share in the blame.” He warned against “go-along-to-get-along Republicans” aligned with “the Mitch McConnell wing of the Senate.”
Hasner cast himself as a proven fighter who stands up to Republicans when necessary. He highlighted his ‘A+’ from the National Rifle Association and a high rating from the Christian Coalition.
“When we were fighting for a conservative agenda in the Florida House, we weren’t only fighting against the Democrats; we were also battling against our own Republican governor [Charlie Crist].”
“Charlie Crist Republicans” called for moderation after Republican losses in the 2006 election.
And after a 2010 national resurrection, Hasner noted, Republicans surrendered on raising the debt limit last August but pretended to vote against it months later, in January 2012.
Hasner contrasted himself with opponents U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, and former Sen. George LeMieux, R-Broward County: “I don’t have a famous last name. I wasn’t handed a United States Senate seat by our former governor, but I know this: I’m a fighter.”
One attendee asked how Hasner would “avoid caving” to the establishment once in office. Hasner answered that his wife, who worked for “governors in Ohio,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former President George W. Bush, and former President George H.W. Bush, would keep him honest.
“This isn’t about going to Washington to be part of the club.” Hasner committed to serve just two terms and added, “I’m going to act as if I’m only going to serve one. That’s how little time I believe America has to change the trajectory of our spending.”
He advocated term limits, changes to pay and pensions, and a ban on insider trading.
Florida is currently in the throes of redrawing its state and federal congressional districts. It gained two districts from a population influx per the 2010 census, meaning that 27 congressmen will represent Florida in the U.S. House beginning January 2013.
A new state constitutional amendment also forbids districts to be drawn for partisan advantage. Quite a few Republicans may be displaced if the proposed maps are approved, touching off what one article called a game of “musical chairs” as incumbents hop to friendlier districts while trying not to step on each other’s toes.
Hasner reportedly made a deal with Republicans to abandon the Senate race and run for Congress in one such favorable Florida district. Businessman and former Senate candidate Craig Miller has also set his sights on a different new district, possibly challenging Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park.
Campaign spokesman Brad Herold confirmed that Hasner is a “filed, announced candidate for U.S. House District 22,” where, Herold said, Hasner is well-known and has a better shot than most other Republicans.
Until Mack’s recent entrance in the Senate primary, there was no clear frontrunner. Now only LeMieux and Col. Mike McCalister, R-Plant City, remain to oppose him.
Hasner has not endorsed anyone in the Senate race.
Bob Root, chairman of the Taylor Tea Party, agrees with many that the state GOP is pruning the field for Mack’s benefit. Still, he understands that some shuffling is necessary in light of redistricting.
For the lesser-known candidates, Root thinks “It’s pretty difficult to run against the party machine”: the Republican establishment seems to meddle in state as well as national primaries.
Zayida Baker covers Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Steve Southerland for Tea Party Patriots’ Government Accountability Project. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.