Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Connie Mack visits Brooksville, pledges help for struggling cement industry

BROOKSVILLE — The man running to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson got a firsthand look Wednesday at Hernando County's sputtering cement industry.

In a carefully choreographed appearance, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV used the Cemex plant off Cobb Road as a backdrop to tout himself as the industry-friendly candidate who can help get idled workers back on the job.

Mack blamed burdensome taxes and regulations "forced down our throats" for hampering the ability of companies like Cemex to recover from the recession.

"This has been an aggressive campaign on behalf of the (Obama) administration, the (Environmental Protection Agency) and others that is destroying jobs," Mack said as he stood in front of a cluster of Cemex workers in hard hats. A massive yellow dump truck and a front-end loader used to pull limestone from the nearby quarry sat strategically parked behind them.

Before taking questions from reporters, Mack rode shotgun in a sport utility vehicle as Cemex officials gave him a tour of the plant.

They passed by Kiln No. 1, idle since 2009, and drove under Kiln No. 2, which is currently operating at about 60 percent of capacity, plant officials said.

Cemex's Brooksville North plant, a few miles up the road, has been offline for the last three years. Both plants were running at the peak of the last decade's building boom. Then the recession hit, resulting in a historic drop in demand for cement that forced the company to lay off workers.

It was a "Great Depression," said Bob Sullivan, Cemex's director of government affairs.

Sullivan said Cemex invited Mack, but the company does not plan to endorse a candidate in the Senate race, and his appearance Wednesday doesn't imply a preference.

"If you check (campaign contribution) records, you'll see that we've taken a very, very even approach to supporting candidates in Florida in both the Senate and the House," Sullivan said.

Like fellow House member Rich Nugent, a Spring Hill Republican also on hand Wednesday, Mack voted last year for a bill that would have undermined tighter EPA restrictions on pollutants such as mercury spewed from cement plant stacks.

The measure died in the Senate, but the EPA agreed to push back the compliance deadline to 2015. Plants will have to monitor emissions once every three years instead of continually, as the earlier version required.

Asked by a Times reporter about that vote and the need to balance business needs with environmental protection, Mack replied: "I feel like the EPA is more interested in filling its own jobs by creating more bureaucracy and more government than it is in actually protecting the environment."

Nelson supported the extension, too. In a letter to the EPA this summer, he noted the "vital" role cement companies play in Florida's economy. The extra time, Nelson wrote, will give companies time to install technology required to comply with the stricter requirements.

During the brief news conference, Mack repeated his claim that Nelson has voted to raise taxes about 150 times since taking office., the fact-checking unit of the Tampa Bay Times, declared the claim false because Mack's tally includes nonbinding resolutions, which cannot change tax law, and multiple votes on the same legislation.

Nelson campaign spokesman Paul Kincaid emailed a statement Wednesday in response to specific questions from the Times.

"Sen. Nelson has led the way on making certain that Florida businesses are an equal stakeholder at the table with the likes of the EPA and other government agencies," Kincaid said. "In fact, it was Sen. Nelson who listened to Florida business stakeholders and made certain the EPA made some compromise on new water rules."

Dave Russell, one of three Hernando County commissioners who showed up Wednesday, served with Mack in the state House and called his former colleague "a great leader." Russell said he agreed with Mack's vote on the emissions rules and has more faith in him than in Nelson to ease rules and regulations. "I'd like to see someone more aggressive in the Senate, and I think Connie Mack will be so," Russell said.

Polls have shown Nelson with a sizable lead over Mack, who is hoping to receive a boost from presidential candidate Mitt Romney's post-debate resurgence. Mack enjoyed his largest haul yet in the fundraising period that ended Sept. 30, and out-of-state fundraising groups are injecting money in attack ads against Nelson. Nelson, though, will have $6.5 million on hand, far more than Mack.

They are set to debate at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at Nova Southeastern University. The encounter will be broadcast live statewide.

Reach Tony Marrero at or (352) 848-1431.

Connie Mack visits Brooksville, pledges help for struggling cement industry 10/10/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 7:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Navy parachutist dies during demonstration over Hudson River


    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy Seal team member fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River.

    Officials surround a U.S. Navy Seal's parachute that landed in a parking lot after the parachutist fell into the Hudson River when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the river in Jersey City, N.J. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. [Joe Shine | Jersey Journal via AP]
  2. As White House defends Jared Kushner, experts question his alleged back-channel move


    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration argued over the weekend that back-channel communications are acceptable in building dialogue with foreign governments, part of an effort to minimize fallout over White House adviser Jared Kushner's reported discussion about creating a secret conduit to the Kremlin at a Russian …

    President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner, as his daughter Ivanka Trump stands nearby, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. [Mark Wilson | Getty Images]
  3. Sunstar ambulance overturns at Drew Street intersection in Clearwater


    The intersection of Drew Street and N Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater closed following a crash that involved a Sunstar ambulance unit, according to the Clearwater Police Department.

    A Sunstar unit flipped in the intersection of Drew Street and Ford Harrison Avenue in Clearwater Monday morning after a car reportedly ran a red light and struck the ambulance, according to the Clearwater Police Department.
  4. Merkel spokesman: Germany still seeking stronger U.S. ties


    BERLIN — Berlin remains committed to strong trans-Atlantic relations, but Chancellor Angela Merkel's suggestion after meetings with President Donald Trump that Europe can no longer entirely rely on the U.S. "speaks for itself," her spokesman said Monday

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech during an election campaign of her Christian Democratic Union, CDU, and the Christian Social Union, CSU, in Munich, southern Germany, Sunday. Merkel is urging European Union nations to stick together in the face of new uncertainty over the United States and other challenges. [Matthias Balk/dpa via AP]
  5. Tampa police: 46 arrests, 47 ejections at two-day Sunset Music Festival

    Public Safety

    Times staff

    TAMPA — In a preliminary tally Monday morning, police declared there were "no major incidents" during the two-day Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium but boosted the number of arrests and rejections they provided in earlier reports during the weekend.

    A Tampa Fire Rescue all-terrain vehicle patrols the parking area north of Raymond James Stadum on Sunday, day two of the Sunset Music Festival. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]