Wednesday, March 17, 2010

GOP Congressional Candidates For Florida's District 8

I was in a discussion yesterday about the local congressional candidates for Florida's District 8. On the left, you have incumbent Alan Grayson, and on the right you have a bevy of Republican contenders, each claiming to be the "conservative" choice. You got Armando Gutierrez, Kurt Kelly, Patricia Sullivan, Bruce O’Donoghue, and Todd Long - the latter leading in a Zogby poll (granted 46% are undecided). What makes these candidates different from one another? When I briefly looked at Todd Long's Facebook page, I made a snap judgment, and that being that he was not a moderate, but a "conservative" candidate trying to capture the Tea Party's attention. How did I come across this conclusion so quickly? For one, his intro mentions a return to the "Founding Fathers'/Reagan" values, he is a fan of Glenn Beck, the flat tax fair tax, drilling, and Marco Rubio. A deeper look would confirm my suspicions. He is pro-life, pro-family, although he does not take a position on Gay Marriage, he mentions "protecting the traditional family," that will lead to "God dependent" individuals. Enough said. This brings to question who the other candidates are. Lets have a breakdown of all the candidates:

Armando Gutierrez positions himself on his website by pointing out the flaws of Alan Grayson. Gutierrez "believes in the free market and the hard work and innovation of Americans." He is against the bailouts, pork, and government "takeover" of health care. He mentions the Second Amendment and putting a stop to "liberal groups like ACORN." What does this mean? Based on the language he uses on his "issues" page, I can identify several Tea Party warning signs. First, he evokes ACORN, Second Amendment rights, and the troops. Secondly, he constantly refers to liberals as trying to de-fund the military, or "distorting our founding documents," or "takeover" private health care. He bashes "liberal trial lawyers" as the cause for rising health care costs. Basically, Gutierrez puts himself above the rest by saying everybody is liberal and the liberals are out to destroy America. Considering the political make up of the district, a vote for this guy would be a vote to ignore half the population.

Bruce O’Donoghue's website offers very little information about his positions. He references his family's small beginnings and promotes small businesses, stating the numerous associations he is a member to or sits on the board of. His only mention of religion comes from the support of offering "faith-based outreach" through House of Hope and his position on the board of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He also mentions that his community service had "inspired" Florida Governor Charlie Crist to appoint him to statewide public service. When trying to understand a candidate, I would prefer to have as much information as possible, but considering what we have to work with from his website, I would have to say that he seems pretty moderate. He seems involved in a lot of organizations throughout Florida and he didn't bash Gov. Crist, which is popular among the right-wing. His mention of "faith-based" programs was not the endorsement of Jesus Christ found in other candidate's profiles. To me, O'Donoghue appears to be moderate.

"I'm running for Congress because Central Floridians do not have a voice in Congress who shares our priorities, who is committed to our conservative solutions, and who is one of us," said O'Donoghue. "I'm a second-generation small business owner - who never envisioned myself running for Congress - but I've had enough of what's happening in Washington, DC. Enough is enough. We can't wait any longer to stop the silly partisanship, the political blame games, and the outrageous spending. It's time to get down to the basics of doing what's right for the American people." Is he talking about Democrats, or Democrats and Republicans?

Patricia Sullivan is a Tea Party candidate. She formed a Tea Party last year, she cites as her major issues "State Sovereignty," she claims energy policy is based off "unproven science" and that the private sector will solve our environment and energy woes, she calls on individual responsibility and limited government to protect the environment, increased Border Patrol, elimination of Federal education mandates, preserving the Second Amendment, and protecting the sanctity of life. While I can agree on her education position, he environmental and energy views seem broken to me. If the private sector is capable of providing "the leadership and ingenuity required to develop new energy sources that are efficient and affordable," then why hasn't it already? How come there isn't a vast exodus away from oil and into new technology designed to ween our dependence on foreign nations? Her views seem simple and naive, and a vote for her would basically be a vote for the death of the environment.

Kurt Kelly seems to be interesting at first look. His website shows press releases that distinguish him from both Rep. Alan Grayson and his candidates, Gutierrez, who is not native to the District, Todd Long, who lost along with Kelly in 2008 in the GOP primaries to Ric Keller, and the rest who are called "Tea Party movement activists." While his site provides very little information, other then his legislative achievements, such as cutting taxes for businesses or the Barwick/Rucshak Act, which protects victims of dating violence and threats to citizens. He also references his Master’s of Science in Education from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor’s of Science from Florida State University, but out of curiosity, I visited his Florida House of Representatives website, where it builds on that by mentioning graduate studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and membership to the National Rifle Association. There is nothing wrong with those two things, but the way I see it, his website screams moderate/conservative, while the rest shows concern that he could lean in a farther right direction, but he does not sound bad, and definitely sounds better then Todd Long.

While all the candidates make themselves out to be conservative, I don't think I would vote for any of them, and will probably stick with my choice of Alan Grayson, but based on the information provided on the Republican websites, I would most likely endorse Bruce O’Donoghue and will vote for him in the primary. Sullivan, Gutierrez, and Long seem too conservative, willing to embrace Tea Party ideology, while Kelly seems to be moderate, but looks could be deceiving. I would prefer for Kelly to remain at the state level for now.

This evaluation of the candidates is only an introductory look, and I plan on looking into them more, but from what I see, the claim that the GOP is a big-tent party is one big myth. While every one of these candidates claims to be conservative, I think conservatism ends where the Tea Party begins, and the integration of those views, while not all bad, can be a corrupting force on the GOP candidates.


  1. Two big problems with your blog:
    1) Todd Long is a FAIR Tax supporter not a flat taxer.

    2) Then incumbent Ric Keller beat Todd in the 2008 primary not Kurt Kelly.

    On another note, Todd is more libertarian leaning on social issues than conservative. How do I know all this? I work for him :)
    I would like to invite you to come to our office and chat with Todd, or at least schedule a phone call. You can call me to schedule either.

    Phil Russo

  2. Okay. After rereading my post, I see that I may have made a mistake.

    1) Todd Long is a FAIR Tax supporter not a flat taxer.

    It looks like I typed the wrong kind of tax.

    2) Then incumbent Ric Keller Beat Todd in the 2008 primary not Kurt Kelly

    I phrased my sentence incorrectly. While I had originally wrote that Long lost to Kelly, I had intended that they had both lost to Keller.

    On another note, Todd is more libertarian leaning on social issues than conservative. I don't see any mention of gay marriage on Todd Long's website. The only "social issues" I see on his website are "pro-life, pro-family, and school choice."

    How exactly does Todd define pro-family?

    Does his definition match the Pro-Family Network's definition of "pro-family?":

    It takes a Father and a Mother to raise a child.

    If so, then would Long be for the use of government to limit rights to homosexuals, and if so, then how exactly is that Libertarian? How exactly is that limited government?

  3. I'm reading your post late; interesting assessment. But Dan Fanelli is and has been a condidate for Dist 8 since October. He is VERY conservative with a strong "citizen" record to back that up. His recent interviews with a number of TV and radio stations show that his name recognition is growing every day. Please take a look at his web site

  4. I will say that Dan Fanelli sounds interesting, although I am a bit turned off by that picture with him shaking hands with Marco Rubio (I'm not Rubio's biggest fan and am more inclined to back Crist).

    I'll keep an eye out regarding Fanelli. He seems more well balanced then some of the other conservative candidates out there.

    My big question would be if he is for repealing the health care bill or amending it...

    While I supported it's passage, I disagree with the calls for repeal, and believe that Republicans should instead work on adding amendments, which in my opinion should have been addressed during the health care debate, but its never too late to write a law...


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