WTVY  | Dothan, AL  | Politics, News

Mike Haridopolos Drops Out of U.S. Senate Race

As the leader of the Florida Senate, Mike Haridopolos is a one-man political machine... a machine powerful enough to have outraised every other republican in his campaign for the U.S. Senate.
And yet, he's dropping out...officially, to focus more of his time on his duties in Tallahassee.

"I'm very blessed to have a very talented Senate."

Especially in politics, not everything is as it appears, and there's plenty of speculation about what Haridopolos' real reason for getting out might be. Most insiders agree it probably has a lot to do with what happened here during the legislative session.

"I'm just a little flabbergasted."

The most powerful man in the legislature was handed two stinging defeats at the hands of his own party. A controversial immigration reform bill Haridopolos endorsed was voted down, and well past midnight on the final day of the session, he was outmaneuvered by the Speaker of the House.

"It's sometimes a sad commentary on politics," he said. "Politics got in the way today, and I'm embarrassed for it."

Many political veterans speculate the entire affair made Haridopolos look weak in the Senate race. They also point to what they call his shifting positions on other issues like high-speed rail, but republican consultant Pete Dunbar disagrees.

"I do think that we have - and this is true for both parties - that the extremes have a tendency to be overly aggressive in their attack mode," Dunbar said. "But, no, I don't see that Mike has changed his base philosophy one way or another."

Still, Haridopolos has been plagued by personal issues, like being paid well over $100,000 by a community college to write a book about campaigning. It became such a gossip item, the Capital Press Corps put on a dramatic reading of the book at its annual spoof show.

"Advice to the candidate - a cell phone will be essential!"

Whatever the reasons behind it, Haridopolos' departure is bound to benefit someone else in what's now a four-man race for the GOP nomination.

Next to Haridopolos, former appointed U.S. Senator George LeMieux has raised the most money, $950,000, in the last quarter. Also in the running are former state house majority leader Adam Hasner, retired Colonel Mike McCalister, and the former CEO of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Craig Miller.

The incumbent senator, democrat Bill Nelson, has so far raised $6 million for his re-election.


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