U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent still seems like the same reasonable, moderate guy we knew as Hernando County sheriff: amiable, good sense of humor, justifiably proud of his three sons' military service, well known for trying to turn down his congressional retirement package and for sleeping in his office rather than renting a fancy apartment in Washington.
A guy who, all in all, hasn't let too much of Washington rub off on him.
Except, that is, when it comes to his voting record.
I'm taking this on because we haven't exactly gotten a detailed critique from his Democratic election opponent, H. David Werder. And I'm doing it less to guide your vote than to let you know more about the person who will almost certainly represent the 11th District for the next two years.
Not that I want to write off Werder. But in the information age, it's difficult to like the chances of a candidate who owns a snappy bowler hat but not a computer or a telephone.
So, back to Nugent and his Republican colleagues in Washington.
Have you heard that national politics these days are more partisan than at any time in recent history?
Well, that's Nugent. Or at least his record.
And have you heard that this Congress has been anti-regulation to the point of being anti-environment? That also squares with Nugent's votes.
And haven't Republicans in Washington been accused of grandstanding on taxes while never denying a penny to the military?
That's definitely Nugent.
Nugent's office said he thinks regulation is a balance and "to assume that every bit of the thousands of pages worth of regulations out there are maximizing consumer protection while minimizing the harm to job creation is flat-out mistaken."
Okay, but where's the balance if he has voted against regulation at every opportunity — against controls on cement plants, farm dust, incandescent light bulbs and coal?
That last vote, just before an election season break this fall, was a "yea" on something called the Stop the War on Coal Act.
War on coal? Any of you who have visited eastern Kentucky will know the real war is against the mountaintops removed to harvest the stuff and the streams clogged with the leavings of this process.
This bill was "dead on arrival," in the U.S. Senate, according to an Associated Press report.
So why pass it?
Well for the same reason this Congress did a lot of things, the AP story said: to make the president look bad.
Which goes all the way back to Nugent's very first vote, in January 2011, to repeal the Democrat-backed health care reform bill. And how many of his stands on taxes are really workable, and how many are just supposed to make Democrats look wasteful?
We can't know for sure. But we do know that Nugent's fiscal positions, other than his vote for a compromise that ended the debt ceiling standoff last year, has been pretty much straight tea party.
He signed Grover Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge and the Contract from America that calls for an end to the Internal Revenue Service, a balanced budget and a flat tax. It almost goes without saying that he voted to deny federal funding for Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio.
Almost all of his generosity has been reserved for the military and, in a rare break with his party's majority, he opposed the National Defense Authorization Act for the upcoming fiscal because he didn't think it spent enough on prescription drug coverage for military families.
Not that this is surprising. Not at all, in fact. Nugent is a standard-issue Republican in the House of Representatives, neither on the conservative nor liberal fringe of his party, according to Votesmart.org.
He fit right in with what that AP story called "the most partisan, least productive Congress in memory."
He's Washington all the way.