Florida’s incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson has been elected to public office 12 times. He served three terms in the Florida legislature, six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, was elected as Florida State Treasurer in 1994 and has been a U.S. Senator since his election in 2000. An influential U.S. Senator, Nelson serves on the Budget Committee, Commerce Committee, Finance Committee, Intelligence Committee and the Aging Committee. He is the Chairman of the Science and Space Subcommittee within the Commerce Committee and Chairman of the Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth Subcommittee within the Finance Committee.
That is, Nelson’s votes have served as rubber stamps for every policy of the Obama Administration from ending the NASA shuttle program to a refusal to balance the budget. The national debt and deficit have compounded in exponential fashion over the decade he has served as Senator.
Senator Nelson’s voting record is bound to be the subject of the Republican challengers intent on retiring him. However, with over $6 million in his election chest, Nelson will be tough to beat.
There are no shortage of Republican challengers for Nelson’s seat. Two challengers will likely rise to the top: former Senator George LeMieux and the former Florida State House Majority leader Adam Hasner.
The Tea Party front runner, Florida’s state Senate President Mike Haridopolos dropped out of the Senate race last month, after raising $2.5 million for the campaign by aligning himself with the Rubio platform. Though he earned an endorsement from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, his staffers began defecting in early July after Haridopolos refused to say that he supported Paul Ryan’s budget plan on a talk radio show in May.
LeMieux, was appointed by then Governor Charlie Crist to replace a retiring Senator Martinez in 2009. The former Crist aide was beaten in his run for a full Senate term by the Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio in 2010. LeMieux will likely spend most of the primary season shaking off his past relationship with former Governor Charlie Crist, who ran as an Independent after losing the Senate primary to Rubio in 2010.
Adam Hasner was term limited from his position as the Florida House Majority Leader in 2010. A prolific fundraiser, Hasner is the likely favorite of conservatives and Tea Party activists in Florida. He has already been endorsed by FreedomWorks. Haridopolos has been critical of Hasner’s record in recent weeks. Hasner voted for a Charlie Crist-sponsored budget with $2.2 billion in tax increases. His votes for high speed rail and other stimulus-tainted measures, while troubling to Tea Partiers, have not stopped conservative bloggers from showing their support. For instance, Erick Erickson of Red State gave Hasner his support in April 2011.
The contest between George LeMieux and Adam Hasner will produce a solid challenger to Senator Nelson. Neither candidate is an outsider. Both are politicians with extensive GOP establishment ties. Hasner may have the edge in fund raising capacity. However, as the ex-Chief of Staff and business liaison of former Governor Crist, LeMieux is no slouch in the Florida business community.
In all probability, the Republican primary will hinge on endorsements. By March of 2012 the star power of an expected Marco Rubio endorsement will probably place Adam Hasner in a dominating position over LeMieux.
As a natural result, Senator Nelson’s April advertising blitz will aim to slow Hasner’s momentum.