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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rail quickly becomes an issue in U.S. Senate race



It's 2010 all over again. Just as Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist battled over the federal stimulus, the high speed rail showdown injects another controversy over government spending into the 2012 race for U.S. Senate.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos this morning reversed earlier support and said the rail money is no good -- positioning himself against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, who is leading the fight in Washington to circumvent Gov. Rick Scott and save the Tampa-to-Orlando project. Haridopolos is also trying to generate support among tea party activists and supporting rail would incur their wrath.

Which raises a problem for George LeMieux, who served as an interim U.S. Senator and would like to return full-time. But LeMieux has been a rail supporter and lobbied for it while he was in Washington. LeMeiux has been silent on the issue since Scott's announcement. UPDATE: Late Friday afternoon, LeMieux issued a statement standing by his support.

Another potential candidate, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, could have an opening. Mack voted against the stimulus and has generally opposed higher spending under President Obama.

In an interview, he said he supports Scott rejecting the money. "Right now is not the time for the federal government or the state to be investing in high speed rail. We're broke. We can't afford it. If we're serious about getting this financial weight off our shoulders, we have to get serious. We don't have the luxury to look at high speed rail."

Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner sent a tweet today that seemed to suggest he was against the rail funding, calling for a federal balanced budget act. Later he offered more extended comments, which can be read here.

[Last modified: Friday, February 18, 2011 7:02pm]


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