All registered Florida Republicans have four candidates to choose from on August 14 in the US Senate primary:
· Connie Mack
· Mike McCalister
· Marielena Stuart
· Dave Weldon
As a Republican in Name Only (RINO), I began my research to decide who to vote for by seeking the least-bad alternative to front-runner Connie Mack. You cannot be more surprised than I with my decision. Here’s how it came to be:
Knowing nothing about the challengers, I began with Project Vote Smart and the candidates’ campaign websites. Here’s a sampling of what I found:
Mike McCalister – a businessman, university instructor and former US Army colonel living in Plant City, FL (Vote Smart). From his website:
“Colonel McCalister is an unapologetic conservative. His number one priority will be to get Floridians back to work by cutting spending, reducing the deficit, lowering taxes, and protecting our products and proprietary technologies and investments against unfair foreign competition. Colonel McCalister believes that Barack Obama and Bill Nelson are destroying our country with their reckless policies, and is frustrated that political insiders have done little to combat high unemployment, rising gas prices, and falling home prices.”
The website showcases McCalister’s military record. There are no positions on issues. The only listed endorsement is from the National Defense PAC, which is “dedicated to supporting the election of balanced-budget-committed Military Veterans to the U. S. Congress.” A quick Google search revealed nothing particularly helpful or (otherwise) alarming. Too much of an unknown. I moved on.
Marielena Stuart - a journalist and professional translator living in Ave Maria, FL (Vote Smart). From her website:
“That's Right! A Republican grassroots campaign website dedicated to providing a strong conservative message to save America from Socialism.” “A record of fighting against Socialist corruption with ACTIONS... not just words.”
“While I was born and raised in Castro’s Cuba, my family’s roots are in Spain. So it is a proud moment for me to see Spain wake up from its Socialist nightmare—as I reflect on the many years I spent suffering under Communism. For Americans, the often-stealth corruption of Socialism will only be clearly understood once it is identified for what it truly is: Socialism is ‘Phase I’ of Communism. In America, Socialism has been festering in our schools, as well as in our local, county and state governments. Washington is awash in Socialism. ...”
“Over the last 40 years, the federal government has spent billions upon billions of tax dollars to promote population control at home and abroad. These anti-baby, anti-natalist programs have included abortion by both surgical and chemical means, as well as mass sterilization. It is time for the federal government to end its “Stop the Stork” campaign initiated by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the early 1970s, and replace it with pro-family and pro-natalist policies ...”
Stuart’s alarmist, anti-Socialist message is her main issue, proclaimed in big, bold letters on the Home page of her website. “Anti-natalist programs??” Scary. I moved on.
Dave Weldon – a physician and seven-term former US Congressman living in Melbourne, FL (Vote Smart). From his website:
“The Authentic Conservative.” Key Issues: Fiscal Responsibility, Jobs and the Economy, Repealing Obamacare, and 2nd Amendment Rights, followed by an alphabetical list of other issues.
“Dr. Weldon has a strong Congressional record of supporting family values and preserving traditional marriage.
· Co-sponsored and voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.
· Co-sponsored and voted for the House-passed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman in 2004 and 2006, to protect traditional marriage from liberal attacks.
· Will safeguard religious employers from being compelled to violate their values by President Obama’s liberal administration.
· Opposed President Obama’s repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Obama’s repeal undermines military readiness, permits same-sex marriages on bases, and threatens liberty of conscience for military chaplains and soldiers who may hold different views on open homosexuality in the military workplace.
· Opposes the marriage tax penalty.
· Voted to prevent trafficking of child pornography.
· Authored the permanent repeal of the death tax.
· Strongly opposes abortion and has a 100% pro-life voting record.”
On Sanctity of Life:
“President Obama, along with liberals in Congress like Senator Bill Nelson, is leading the charge in the largest government intrusion into health care in our nation’s history—and an unprecedented assault on the most fundamental right of them all: life.
To defeat Senator Nelson and peel back the big-government, anti-life policies of the Obama administration, we need a candidate with a proven track record of protecting the unborn. My 100% pro-life voting record and legislative accomplishments demonstrate that I am that candidate.”
The Endorsements Page showcases endorsements from noted conservatives Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Eagle Forum PAC Founder Phyllis Schlafly, and Florida Congressman Bill Posey, as well as the United Christians of Florida Political Action Committee and spokepersons for the Home School Legal Defense Association PAC and the Sportsmen’s & Animal Owners’ Voting Alliance. It also lists The TampaBay Times.
At this point in my research, I began to get alarmed. It’s not just the conservative positions on social issues; I expected them. It’s the exaggerated, near-hysterical language with which the positions are portrayed.
But the TampaBay Times, a highly-respected, Pulitizer-Prize-winning publication and operator of PolitiFact.com, endorsed Weldon (“Senate primaries give voters few options”). In part:
“Former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon ... is a long shot, but he has more experience in Congress, a stronger record of accomplishments and a reputation as a more serious-minded lawmaker [than Connie Mack]. ... While taking pride in supporting efforts that balanced the federal budget during several years of Bill Clinton's presidency, Weldon also supported the Bush-era tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Medicare prescription drug program that increased deficit spending. He is a social conservative as well as a fiscal conservative, and we disagreed with his efforts to have Congress intervene in the Terri Schiavo feeding tube issue in 2005. We also disagree with his opposition to abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research.
But Weldon is a thoughtful legislator who recognizes the serious challenges facing the nation and is willing to realistically confront them. He predictably opposes the Affordable Care Act but says some of its features are worth saving. He is clear-eyed about the federal deficit and the costs of entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, and he is willing to consider raising some revenue and tax reform that closes loopholes as part of an overall package.
Still, according to the Naples Daily News, Weldon “was first elected to Congress in 1994 as a candidate of the religious right and abortion opponents. ... Weldon was a founder of the Space Coast Family Forum, an anti-abortion and family values group. In Congress he focused heavily on conservative social legislation including a law banning a late-term procedure that its critics call "partial-birth" abortion.” And according to the Miami Herald, a spokesman said Weldon decided to run because “there is no authentic conservative in the race. We've got two moderates fighting it out." [The reference was to Connie Mack and then-candidate George LeMieux, who since endorsed Mack.]
So what about Mack?
Connie Mack - Executive, LTP Management Incorporated, 1994-2000; Marketing Consultant; Florida State House of Representatives 2001-2004; US House of Representatives 2005-present. Living in Fort Myers, Fl (Vote Smart) (though often accused of spending more of his time in California, home of his wife Congresswoman Mary Bono).
Compared with the others, Mack’s website is refreshingly tame:
“Congressman Connie Mack has had a distinguished career in public service fighting for Florida and the ideals of Freedom, Security and Prosperity.
Connie has fought to cut spending and taxes, reduce the debt, and balance the budget. And he’s fought against policies like TARP, the Stimulus, ObamaCare, and other liberal experiments that are jeopardizing our future by spending taxpayer dollars on programs Americans cannot afford and do not want....
Connie has been a champion for strengthening our national security, leveraging his position as the Chairman of Congress' Western Hemisphere Subcommittee to fight for the toughest border security with Mexico, and against the threat posed by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and his alliances with Iran and other nations and terrorist organizations that threaten America and our allies.”
PolitiFact.com said, “There are times when he didn’t take a hard-line conservative position, such as his stances on stem cell research and the Arizona immigration law. But [his claim of a "very conservative voting record"] was about his overall record and how he compared to the rest of Congress, and for that he has gotten high marks from several conservative organizations."
He’s been endorsed by Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, and every poll shows him ahead by a large margin.
The TampaBay Times’ said Mack:
“... has the reputation of an opportunist with an unremarkable record in Congress.... He has the expected conservative voting record, opposing the federal stimulus, the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation reforms.... Beyond his policy positions, Mack's approach to public service does not inspire confidence. He refused to debate his Republican primary opponents or meet with editorial boards, including this one. By one measure, he has missed more than twice as many votes in the House as the average member since taking office. There also remain questions about how much time he spends in his district.”
There really are no good choices in this race for a RINO like me. But given the alternatives, I’d rather have a conservative Congressman who misses votes than one of the challengers whose ideologies scare me.
Believe it or not, the lesser of evils turns out to be Connie Mack.