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Weldon jumps into Senate race

Posted May 18, 2012 by William March

Updated May 18, 2012 at 06:26 PM

Former Space Coast congressman Dave Weldon has announced he’s jumping into the tangled Republican U.S. Senate primary.

Weldon, a Melbourne physician, served seven terms in the House from 1995-2008, where he was known as a strong supporter of Israel and a zealous pro-lifer and social conservative. His website describes him as “a true, authentic conservative.”

In a news release announcing his candidacy, he attacked the Obama administration, not mentioning his GOP primary opponents or Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, whom the primary winner will face in November.

“Someone has to do something to provide a Conservative answer to the problems the Administration has created and the current Senate has endorsed,” he said. “It’s time to stop the spending and balance the budget again. Together, we can change Washington – I helped do it once – and I can help do it again.”

Weldon campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley, a South Carolinian who’s fresh off the Rick Santorum presidential campaign, said Weldon differs from the current GOP Senate candidates because he offers “Authentic conservatism ... You need somebody out there who’s espousing conservatism. Right now we have two people in the race who by all accounts are fairly moderate,” referring to Connie Mack IV and George LeMieux.

His candidacy, however, further tangles the already confusing Republican Senate primary, which will produce a nominee to face Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

It comes as Rep. Connie Mack IV of Fort Myers appears to be solidifying his position as frontrunner, with an endorsement Wednesday from presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Former appointed Sen. George LeMieux trails, but is still waging a vigorous campaign.

Weldon will start off at a disadvantage, joining the race late and behind the other Republicans in fundraising, but may benefit from Republican dissatisfaction with the current field.

Gidley said Weldon is “well aware of the obstacles in his path,” but, “You can make up a lot of time and a lot of deficiencies with a great message and a great candidate. It just takes one spark to start a fire.”

He said Weldon isn’t wasting time, starting to campaign this weekend. He’s expected to attend a local Republican Party picnic Saturday at Medard Park in Plant City, which will include a straw vote in the Senate primary.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater last month announced he was considering jumping into the race, but decided against it.

Three other prominent Republicans, including state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, have dropped out of the race over the last year, and the current frontrunner, Rep. Connie Mack of Fort Myers, entered the race in November after have ruled it out last spring.