Connie Mack defends decision to announce candidacy on national TV

Congressman Connie Mack IV 

Congressman Connie Mack IV Submitted

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U.S. Rep. Connie Mack on Tuesday defended his decision to announce his U.S. Senate candidacy on national television, rather than in a local news conference.

The Southwest Florida congressman has been plagued by the perception that he spends too much time in California, where his wife lives, and not enough time in his 14th District. But Mack, 44, speaking with reporters the morning after a prime time Fox News interview, said such accusations are politically motivated.

“You’re right, there are a few people who like to talk about that, and it typically comes from my Democrat opponents,” he said.

“This is my home,” he said. “I was born and raised in Fort Myers, and this will always be my home. I’m proud of that fact. In fact, I’m here right now.”

Monday night, Mack officially announced he would challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, one month after an aide confirmed suspicions that he would. Polls show Mack ahead of a pack of other Republicans vying for the nomination.

He made the announcement on conservative commentator Sean Hannity’s 9 p.m. television show, “Hannity.” A spokesman said Mack was filmed in Sarasota and that “he’s home most weekends when duty allows it.”

“Sean is a friend, and I was honored to have the opportunity to be on his show last night and announce my candidacy,” Mack said.

Already Mack’s campaign tactic is clear: He has turned his attacks squarely on Nelson, leaving his Republican challengers as footnotes.

“I think the polls show pretty clearly that (the other Republicans) don’t have the opportunity to beat Sen. Nelson, and I do have that opportunity,” Mack said. “That’s an important distinction in this race.”

Mack’s entrance into the race as the instant front-runner puts a huge target on his back, and he’ll have to answer plenty of questions about his personal and political background to maintain that position in a crowded Republican field.

Now the guy to beat, Mack can expect old history to be dug up. There were two barroom fights, including one with then-Atlanta Braves outfielder Ron Gant and another in which he was charged with resisting an officer without violence, to which he pleaded no contest. Then there’s more recent history as a congressman, like support for taxpayer funded embryonic stem cell research and earmarks for his district.

His Republican opponents were quick to respond Tuesday.

Former Florida Sen. George LeMieux’s campaign countered that another distinction will come to light: “There will be a sharp contrast between substance and celebrity,” said spokeswoman Anna Nix in a statement. She was presumably referring to Mack’s famous name, given to him by his father, an elected official, and his great-grandfather, a Hall of Fame baseball manager.

Others in the Republican field include former state Rep. Adam Hasner, retired Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Ruth’s Chris Steak House CEO Craig Miller.

LeMieux’s campaign condemned Mack for voting to raise the debt ceiling and raise his salary, and a Hasner strategist tied Mack to the culture of Washington earmarks.

Mack, meanwhile, spared no opportunity to link Nelson to a list of Obama administration policies that are unpopular with Republican voters, including Obama’s health-care legislation, the stimulus package, cap and trade and raising the debt ceiling. He is calling Nelson and Obama “lockstep liberals.”

Voters have “had enough of the lockstep liberals in Washington fighting for more government control of their lives,” Mack said. Rather, “they want policies that believe in the individual, that believe in the entrepreneur.”

Nelson’s campaign issued a statement Tuesday that did not address Mack’s statements.

“It’s a little early to be talking about the election,” a campaign spokesman said. “Bill’s really just focused on doing his job in the Senate.”

Mack was elected to the state House in 2000 to represent the Fort Lauderdale area. He served for three years before moving back to Fort Myers and winning his current seat. He’s held onto the office, winning election four times by an average of 35 percentage points. He sits on the Oversight and Government Reform and the Foreign Affairs committees.

But already questions have been raised about what he did to deserve elected office in the first place. Mack was a marketing executive with LTP Management, which manages several chain restaurants, including Hooters in South Florida. Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux mocked the job experience in a press release, referring to it as Mack’s “vast professional experience planning parties for Hooters.”

Mack will also likely be reminded of some not so pleasant memories from his 20s.

Mack broke an ankle during a 1992 Atlanta fight with Gant and sued the baseball star. A jury in 1997 found that Gant started the fight, but did not award Mack damages.

In 1989, Mack was charged with resisting an officer without violence after a fight at a Jacksonville nightclub. Mack pleaded no contest and was let off without penalty.

When the bar fights became an issue in Mack’s 2000 campaign for the state House, he said he had been “young and foolish” when those things happened, but he had changed since then.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 3

RayPray writes:

"It was revealed in October 2007 that Mack sent a letter to a Florida university expressing his support for an interchange at Coconut Road, a $10 million earmark that has caused controversy since its insertion into the 2005 transportation bill.

For months Mack said he was not involved and knew nothing about the earmark’s inclusion in the highway bill, even though it was a high priority for the university in his district and he was a member of the House Transportation Committee when the earmark was placed in the bill. It was revealed that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) inserted the earmark into the bill. Mack has since pledged to reverse the earmark, but a March 2006 letter stands in contrast. In the letter, addressed to the university president, he was willing to support construction of the interchange after the earmark’s passage. Mack had maintained since the controversy began that he did not request the $10 million earmark for the interchange in his district. He also said he did not know about efforts to insert it into the bill.

Both Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and real estate developer Daniel Aronoff’s Landon Companies paid Potomac partners, a lobbying firm $140,000 since 2005 and $580,000 since 2003, respectively. Aronoff helped organize a fundraiser honoring Young, then chairman of the House Transportation Committee, but Mack was involved in hosting it. Earlier that day both congressmen attended a town hall meeting on the FGCU campus. Topics for the event according to a notice included a study commissioned by FGCU that recommended the construction of an interchange at Coconut Road and I-75 in addition to a high-tech command and control center that would be located on the FGCU campus. Minutes from the meeting stated that Young was invited to the university by Mack."



Connie is sorta stepdad to 'Dance with Stars' transvestite fatty Chaz Bono....

26yearsonmarco writes:

Please do not misunderstand me, I think Connie Mack is a nice guy, but I think it’s time for him to decide which Coast he wants to represent.
I say this because on two occasions he said he voted against two major issues affecting our economy, the Tarp Bill, and the increase in the Debt Ceiling, but his Wife voted in favor of both of them, which makes the Net Vote a Zero for the Mack Family.
I know there will be many comments talking about his wife’s rights to her own opinion, etc, etc, but I believe this Country is in serious trouble, and we need representation for “We the People” by one person whose vote can be counted on to make a difference.

happy6 writes:

who gives a flip about connie mack...we need to worry about obamanation getting re-elected...that will be a disaster for the country.

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