Nelson, Haridopolos share stage for first time
by Keith Laing
The News Service of Florida
Appearing at the same event for the first time since both acknowledged they are running for the U.S. Senate in 2012, incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos each said Wednesday that they hoped to be judged in that race by their records in office now.
Nelson, the lone elected statewide Democrat, confirmed that he is definitely a candidate in 2012 to return to his seat for a third term and is confident he will win, despite the tough times experienced by fellow Democrats in 2010.
Following an election that saw Democrats nationally and in Florida get wiped out in 2010, Nelson has emerged as a top Republican target.
He used his speech to the annual Associated Press Florida Legislative Planning Session to tout his record in the Senate.
“In the Senate, I have had the privilege of accepting the mantle from Bob Graham to help restore one of the state’s great treasures, the Florida Everglades,” he said.
“After decades of delay, we have now gotten the first meaningful chunk of federal money and it is happening as we
speak,” he said.
And then as many of you have reported, we’ve been able to get more than $2.4 billion on the table for a high speed rail system,” said Nelson.
Haridopolos, the first declared candidate to challenge Nelson in what figures to be a hotly contested election, similarly spoke highly of his own work in the Florida Senate.
“I think when people look at my track record and how we’ve transformed the Florida Senate, and I think they’d like us to go that way in the United States Senate,” he said.
“As you know, I’m a candidate, but the way I’m going to be judged is not how much money I raise, it’s how I perform as Senate president, and that’s why I’m keeping my focus on the Senate presidency,” he said.
Haridopolos said he was not sure if he would raise money for the Senate race during the legislative session, which he would be able to do because he is seeking a federal office, not a state position.
Factoring in middling approval ratings in Florida for President Barack Obama, who will be on the ballot for a second term himself, the GOP smells blood when it comes to Nelson in 2012.
But the two-term senator told reporters Wednesday that he has won elections despite a national political pendulum that has swung both ways since he first won a state legislative seat in 1972, the year Richard Nixon trounced Democrat George McGovern.