Special to Central Florida Politics by Michael Freeman of Freeline Media Orlando
CELEBRATION – With the Sunsine States Aug. 14 primary now just days away, the Tea Party Of Florida has issued its endorsements for state and federal offices – although coming up with the list was an often frustrating experience, said John Long.
“So many times, fiscal conservatives have been suckered by people who have promised to go to Washington and Tallahassee, pledging to be fiscal conservatives, and then do whatever the machine tells them to do,” said Long, the chairman of the Tea Party of Florida. “We were looking for some independence.”
The Tea Party, which has its headquarters in Celebration, is looking for candidates who will commit to reducing spending both at the state and federal level — and not come up with excuses for why certain projects simply need to be exempt from the notion of fiscal discipline.
A good example of the Tea Party’s dilemma, Long said, is the race for Florida’s new 7th Congressional District, where two Republican incumbents – U.S. Rep. John Mica and U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams – are battling it out. Redistricting by the state Legislature merged their districts together.
The battle between these two Republicans has come down to sharp attacks over which one is more faithfully committed to opposing government spending. Adams has criticized Mica for supporting so-called pork barrel projects, including SunRail, the commuter rail line that is now being built in Central Florida, with federal dollars financing a large part of the construction.
Mica has criticized Adams for doing the same thing when she was serving in the Florida House of Representatives before her election to Congress in 2010. Both of them, Long said, are absolutely right.
“That exactly describes our problem,” Long said, adding that the Tea Party has long opposed SunRail as a waste of taxpayer money that’s unlikely to be self-sustaining in the years to come.
“On the federal level, we were looking for people who articulated fiscal discipline,” Long said. “Unfortunately, the state of Florida is still controlled by the Republican Party, and they simply do whatever the machine tells them to do.” That machine, Long said, is the lobbyists for special interest groups that want the state of Florida to spend money on their projects – taxpayer money, Long added.
“We’ve come to the opinion that very little differences separate the Democrats from the Republicans,” he said.
In the 7th Congressional District race, the Tea Party opted to endorse Mica. Political consultant Doug Guetzloe, an advisor to the Tea Party of Florida, said it was actually an easy decision to make.
Mica was first elected in 1992, and is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and he’s been a longtime advocate of bringing home federal dollars for mass transit projects in Greater Orlando, including SunRail. That rail line, expected to start operating in 2014, would run across four counties: Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia.
“For the past 15 years, John Mica has said he would support that, and he has been true to his word,” Guetzloe said.
And while Guetzloe and other members of the Tea Party of Florida have opposed SunRail, Guetzloe noted that Adams was an advocate of SunRail while serving in the Florida Legislature. “She’s the one who helped shepherd it through the Legislature,” Guetzloe said, adding that for Adams to now criticize Mica’s support for the project seems hypocritical.
“She’s throwing anything she can at him,” he said. “That kind of duplicity we don’t need.”
The endorsements were made for candidates running in Orange, Brevard, Polk and Osceola counties. Guetzloe said the party was looking for candidates who are pledging to reduce spending, not the ones touting how much money they could bring to their districts.
“The core interest in this was economic freedom – less taxes, less government, more freedom,” Guetzloe said. “These were all economic conservatives that we endorsed.”
Among the candidates that the Tea Party of Florida is urging voters to support on Tuesday, Aug. 14 are U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, who is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida; Todd Long, who is seeking the Republican nomination in Florida’s new 9th Congressional district;
Republicans Paul Owen and Tony Ferentinos, who are running in separate districts for the Osceola County Board of County Commissioner; Tracy Garcia and John Hall, who are running for the Polk County Board of Commissioners; and Daniel Perry, who is challenging 9th Circuit Court Judge Belvin Perry in a non-partisan judicial election.
John Long said he hopes the legislative candidates can break the political addiction to spending taxpayer money on local projects, “people who have the courage to oppose the machine in Tallahassee.”
To learn more about the endorsements, log on to www.TEAPartyofFlorida.US.
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