Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
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Baxley backs LeMieux
Posted May 2, 2012 by William March
Updated May 2, 2012 at 04:59 PM
As the battle of endorsements in the Florida Republican U.S. Senate primary continues, George LeMieux has fired the latest shot—backing from state Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, a former executive director of the Florida Christian Coalition.
It’s significant because of Baxley’s position as a leader on the conservative side of the Florida GOP. He was an early backer of Sen. Marco Rubio when Rubio and former Gov. Charlie Crist clashed in the 2010 Republican Senate primary. He said he believes LeMieux’s challenge to the better known Rep. Connie Mack in the primary is comparable to Rubio’s underdog challenge to Crist.
Overcoming has association with Crist has been one of LeMieux’s biggest obstacles in seeking the Senate nomination.
In a news release about the endorsement, Baxley pulled few punches in criticizing Mack, verging on the character attacks LeMieux himself has launched.
Baxley praised LeMieux as “a faithful husband and father”—a thinly veiled shot at Mack, who left his wife and two young children after being elected to Congress and later married House colleague Mary Bono of California.
Baxley said LeMieux “has a solid pro-life, pro-family, pro-free enterprise, pro-Second Amendment voting record,” while Mack “has an abysmal personal financial legacy, attacked Arizona for addressing its illegal immigration problems, and supports embryonic stem cell research.”
“I served with Connie in the Florida House and love him dearly, but he has performed poorly and is not ready to lead,” Baxley said.
Baxley left left the Christian Coalition post in 2009 to back Rubio, because of a coalition policy that staff members couldn’t be involved in political campaigns. He ran again for the House in 2010.
“I’m telling social conservatives I had to fight this guy (LeMieux) with Charlie Crist, but he surprised the base with how solidly he functioned as a Senator when he could have just hid in the wallpaper as a placeholder,” Baxley said of LeMieux.