By Steve Miller | Watchdog.org
WINTER PARK, Fla. — John Mica dropped names — President George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich — spoke of stabilizing Colombia and described his rise to chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Winter Park on Monday.
Mica, vying for the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District against fellow incumbent Sandy Adams on Tuesday, took the mic after the raffle.
The 70 or so in the linoleum-floored room at the Winter Park Civic Centernodded their heads and laughed in the right places. It had been some time since Mica had addressed the club. This year, though, there were votes to chase.
Mica is still hitting it like he’s playing catch-up. “I’m running like I’m 30 points behind,” Mica said last month.
Perhaps he needs to. Adams, who took office in 2010 by swamping her Democratic opponent 60 percent to 40 percent, is a feisty foe. The two were thrown together in the 7th by redistricting. When Mica asked her to bow out, she refused. It’s my district, she said.
While Mica was regaling the Rotary with Beltway stories, Adams was in a hotel conference room talking to about 40 tea party acolytes, with U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent, R-District 5, at her side.
“I’m one of those guys who couldn’t find the bathroom,” Nugent quipped to the crowd, referring to Mica’s now infamous comment on the 2010 insurgence in Congress: “When it comes to the new guys, we are talking about amateur hour. These guys need help finding their way to the bathroom.”
The event was called by the Tea Party Express to — again — decry a mailer sent out which claims Mica has the endorsement of the tea party. Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer said the move was “shenanigans” on the part of Mica, and it “smacks of desperation.”
Mica denies having a hand in it.
Adams promised that voters will see through the “misrepresentations” put forth on behalf of Mica. She outlined her previous career as a sheriff’s deputy — 17 years in Orange County — and said she is “a person of integrity.”
The Adams-Mica contest has been marked by accusations, vilifications and obfuscations. Mica clearly has the campaign spending edge, outraising Adams by almost 2-1 through June.
He is up with a press of ads on television and radio, while Adams’ presence has been understandably more subdued. And her fiscal rescue is unlikely.
In the 11th hour in 2010, Adams received an infusion of $41,437 from PACs and individuals all over the U.S. that lifted her to victory over incumbent Democrat Suzanne Kosmas in the general election, sending her to Washington, D.C., as congresswoman for the 24th District.
This time, most of Adams’ money is coming from Florida, primarily from individuals. Through Friday, Adams has received $12,500 in August, according to federal filings.
Mica took note that there is quite a difference in the conservative politics of the tea party and Republicanism. “Often they don’t even use the word Republican,” Mica said.
While he’s being portrayed by the Adams camp as part of the D.C. establishment, he said, “I don’t think people view me that way. The revolution in 2010 was more against spending, and much of it was against people who have been in office for some time. There was a lot of anger about the Waxmans and the Pelosis.”
He said he doesn’t feel he’s part of that crew and isn’t convinced voters — tea party or otherwise — are either.
“John Mica and Sandy Adams both have conservative voting records,” said Al Schwartz, chairman of the Republican Party in Seminole County, where the bulk of the district lies. “So I don’t think this race really relates back to the definition of Republican or conservative. It’s just become a look at the difference between an elder statesman and a relative newcomer with two years of a voting record.
“What Sandy Adams has done is taken a look at the mood regarding elected officials who have served a while.”
The Republican primary winner will go to the general election, facing the winner in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The Democrats are molecular biologist Nicholas Ruiz III, of New Smyrna Beach, and Seminole County soil and water conservation supervisor Jason Kendall, of Altamonte Springs.
Steve Miller covers congressional campaigns for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or firstname.lastname@example.org.