Promising to reduce the size of the Federal government, cut taxes and spend less, Congressman Connie Mack officially kicked off his campaign for U.S. Senate on Friday afternoon at a rally in Estero.
"I commit to you, that I will fight hard every day," Mack told a crowd of more than 50 supporters gathered at Coconut Point mall between Pagelli's and Hemingway's Island Grill restaurants. "I'll fight for those principles that I grew up sitting at the dinner table with mom and dad learning about. The idea of less government, less taxes, less spending and more freedom."
Mack and his mother, Priscilla Mack, took the platform while Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere" blared through the courtyard. In a 7-minute speech, Mack asked the cheering crowd to get involved and help put the country back on the road to prosperity.
Mack, a Republican, said he wants to fight for a balanced budget and the elimination of President Barack Obama's 2010 health care reform law.
Mack, who had once announced he would not run for U.S. Senate, said he changed his mind when Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who he supported, dropped out of the race. He said he didn't believe any of the other Republicans in the race could beat Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.
"I don't believe that we could continue to have a Democratic control in the Senate that believes that government is the answer to all of the problems," Mack said.
Mack said he wants to be a voice in the Senate fighting for limited government.
Campaign finance reports released this week showed Nelson with $8.4 million on hand, compared to about $918,000 for Mack. He admits that Nelson has a financial advantage, but says Nelson has been raising money for six years, while he has been raising money for about six weeks.
However, Mack said he is confident that he will close the gap and have the resources needed.
Among Mack's supporters at Friday's rally were the city of Naples Mayor-elect John Sorey and his wife, Delores. Sorey praised Mack for his support of Naples, including the dredging of Gordon Pass.
"We think he has great conservative values, and less government is the best government and that's what we believe in," said Sorey, a registered Republican. "Hopefully, he will move our country back to what made it great."
The Republican field thinned out this week when both Adam Hasner, a former state representative, and Craig Miller, a former steakhouse executive, dropped out of the race to run for Congress. Mack will now face former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and Col. Mike McCalister in the GOP primary in August.
Mack said the focus of his campaign is on Nelson, not the primary election.
"We are looking for a clear difference and a clear change in America and in Florida," he said. "We want to get away from the idea of a big government. We want to get back to the idea of a limited government and one that respects the citizens."
Mack officially joined the Senate race in November and instantly shot to the front of the Republican pack. He has high name recognition thanks largely to his father, former Sen. Connie Mack III, who also attended the rally on Friday.
The younger Mack has represented Fort Myers and Naples in Congress since 2005.
Among his supporters Friday was the Rattner family of Fort Myers. Cody Rattner, 12 and his brother, Daniel, 8, held a homemade sign that read "Mack 4 Senate."
"I think Connie is going to vote for Floridians and not necessarily for the benefit of one party," said David Rattner, the boys' father. "He is going to put Florida first."
Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel/