Haley Barbour lends endorsement in Florida Senate primary

Amanda Carey Contributor
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Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, on Monday, weighed in on the Senate primary race in Florida. His endorsement went to former Sen. George LeMieux.

“George is a solid conservative who served the people of Florida well in the U.S. Senate,” said Barbour in a statement. “I am happy to lend my support to his campaign.”

The Republican primary race in Florida, to unseat Democrat Senator Bill Nelson, is largely between LeMieux, a former Senator; and Boca Raton native Adam Hasner, a former state legislator. Late-entrant Mike McCalister, however, appears to be shaking things up.

There’s no doubt the LeMieux campaign will use the Barbour endorsement as proof of the candidate’s conservative credentials. So far, LeMieux’s biggest obstacle has been his association with former Republican-turned-Independent Governor Charlie Crist.

Indeed, LeMieux’s Campaign Manager, Brian Seitchik, said of the endorsement, “Every day, Republican activists and donors are joinging our campaign because they know that George LeMieux is the proven conservative who will retire Bill Nelson and end Harry Reid’s reign as majority leader.”

This isn’t the first time Barbour has gotten involved in a Florida primary. As chair of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) in 2010, he got into the race by attacking Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott’s opponent, Bill McCollum was seen as a shoe-in. He was also seen as being more moderate, compared to the Tea Party favorite, Scott.

After Scott won the primary, he, now famously, told Barbour on the phone, “Haley, you cost me more than $7 million.”

Could the Florida Senate race be headed for a repeat of the 2010 gubernatorial primary? History has shown Barbour’s opinions on Florida political races don’t hold their weight in gold. And Hasner, who has been compared to Sen. Marco Rubio, has so far proven to be a formidable challenge to the more-established LeMieux.

Yet the latest Quinnipiac poll in Florida shows the Senate race is wide open. Fifty-three percent of Republicans answered as undecided. McCalister, a retired military officer led with 15 percent, followed by LeMieux at 12 percent. Former Ruth’s Chris CEO polled at eight percent, while Hasner came in at the bottom at six percent.