Florida Senate President Haridopolos abruptly quits U.S. Senate race

Jul 19, 2011

The following article was published in the Bradenton Herald on July 19, 2011:

Haridopolos abruptly quits U.S. Senate race

By Mark Caputo and Alex Leary 

Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ star-crossed campaign for U.S. Senate ended unexpectedly Monday morning, following months of missteps and the recent departure of his two top staffers.

Haridopolos said he underestimated the difficulties of running for the U.S. Senate and running the state Senate with the first weeks of legislative committee weeks scheduled for September.

“It became increasingly clear to me, and those around me, that the responsibilities I was managing on both fronts are in conflict. I truly believed I could handle both jobs, but I was wrong. Now I am determined to make it right,” said Haridopolos, a Republican.

“Today, I am announcing that I will no longer be a candidate for the United States Senate, nor will I seek any other office this year or next. Instead, I am re-dedicating myself to finishing the job you sent me to do here in Florida,” he said.

The Senate field now includes Adam Hasner, George LeMieux, Mike McCalister and Craig Miller, the latest entry into a race. The Republicans are vying to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November 2012.

At this early stage, it’s unclear who benefits from Haridopolos’ departure in the wide-open race where no candidate has clearly distinguished himself. LeMieux sought to capitalize on the news first, Tweeting that he invited any of Haridopolos’ supporters to back his campaign. He also used the resignation as a fundraising pitch — as did Hasner who blasted LeMieux for his associations with former Gov. Charlie Crist.

State capitol Republican consultant Brett Doster said Hasner should benefit in the long-run because he can now liken his campaign to the race of Sen. Marco Rubio, who served in the state House with Hasner.

“With Haridopolos out, Hasner can more easily re-shape this race as a repeat of the Crist vs. Rubio fight,” he said. “And the similarities are striking.”

The announcement of Haridopolos, who had a series of public-relations stumbles magnified by his Senate presidency, followed last week’s departure of longtime campaign advisor Pat Bainter and his campaign manager, Tim Baker. Bainter wouldn’t comment. Baker had issued a statement last week saying the campaign was in good shape.

Now Haridopolos plans to refund donor dollars after paying out campaign debts.

Haridopolos made his decision to drop out over the weekend as his family celebrated the birthday of his father, who turned 80. He said he was surprised by the “level of vitriol” during the legislative session, which ended in May, and the fact that virtually every move he made was viewed through the political lens of his U.S. Senate campaign — and then questioned and attacked.

Haridopolos was primed for even more bad news. In August, he could be deposed in the criminal case against former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer, who alleges the state fraud charges against him were part of a conspiracy by top Republicans, including Haridopolos. Greer says his fellow Republicans wanted to avoid paying him $124,000 in consulting fees.