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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mahoney: Not Endorsing Obama

Now that Sen. Barack Obama is the clear Democratic nominee for president and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is stepping out of the race, most Democrats in Congress have pledged their allegiance to Obama. But not Rep. Tim Mahoney of Palm Beach Gardens, and it's not because he’s dreaming of Hillary.

“I’m doing what I was elected to do, and I don’t think people elected me to be running around to cocktail parties endorsing people,” Mahoney, a freshman, told Buzz this afternoon. “People in my district are pretty smart, and they’re going to make their own decision who they’re going to support.”

He added, “The day you become an endorser, you are a cheerleader for a particular candidate instead of a cheerleader for a cause.”

Mahoney, narrowly won this Republican-leaning district in 2006, stayed neutral in the race for the Democratic nomination, but it’s not like he’s now on the fence between Obama and the presumptive GOP nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

McCain has opposed two measures dear to Mahoney’s district: a wide-ranging water bill that authorized major projects for Everglades restoration and Mahoney’s own bill to create a national catastrophic insurance program, aimed at helping states recover from hurricanes and other disasters.

“If I had to take a look at where Sen. McCain stands today …. and I look at how Obama stacks up to McCain, Obama is a better choice for Florida,” he said. “But I got to do whatever I can to help McCain get right on these issues.”

Mahoney said endorsing would cost him leverage and make it harder for him to push Obama or McCain to act on Florida issues. For instance, Mahoney’s national cat fund bill, which he co-sponsored with Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, passed the House, but has never had a full hearing in the Senate. Obama says he supports it, so he should help now, Mahoney said.

“Here’s what I’ve got to say to Sen. Obama: go back to Washington, work with Sen. (Bill) Nelson, and let’s get the Mahoney-Klein bill signed into law. We don’t have to wait until the election to get that done.”

Meanwhile, he called on McCain – who toured the Everglades today and expressed his support for restoring it – to put his money where his mouth is, and back the appropriations bill this summer that will fund it.

“Senator, are you going to support everglades restoration? That’s important. We don’t have to wait until Nov. 4 to find out what he’s going to do. We can find out in the next 60 days as we move this appropriations bill.”

One other House Democrat from Florida has refrained from endorsing Obama as well: Rep. Allen Boyd of Monticello. A spokeswoman said he’ll remain uncommitted. “He's focused on and working for the people of North Florida, and he' looking forward to working with the next President, whoever that may be, on the serious issues facing our country,” she said.

Mahoney was elected in 2006 after the Republican incumbent, Mark Foley, resigned under scandal, and he is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the state’s delegation, given the district’s conservative bent. Three Republicans are vying to face him.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:21am]


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