There are four Member-vs.-Member Republican primaries this redistricting cycle, but the Florida matchup between House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica and freshman Sandy Adams is the one that leaves party leaders shaking their heads in dismay the most.
It’s a race that will pit the establishment against the tea party, seniority against grass roots, the old culture of earmarking against the one of new fiscal austerity, and a Member with significant resources against one with a lot less.
“It’s going to get ugly, man,” one top Tallahassee Republican said with a sigh. “They’re going to kick the tar out of each other.”
Adams is a local tea party favorite, a former state legislator and police officer who is well-liked by Florida’s GOP political class.
Mica, first elected to Congress in 1992, is known as the begrudging godfather of the Transportation Security Administration and identifies more closely with country club Republicans and the local business crowd.
Both Members’ homes were drawn into the newly configured 7th district north of Orlando, which contains 51 percent of Adams’ current constituents and 42 percent of Mica’s.
“I think that while I would give [Mica] the advantage because of money and overall name ID ... as far as work ethic, I wouldn’t rule her out,” said a longtime Florida GOP operative who is unaffiliated with either Member, reflecting the conventional wisdom in state Republican circles. “I think it’s going to be a donnybrook.”
Part of what is so frustrating for GOP operatives is that there was an easy out. The nearby 6th district was open. But Mica and Adams are adamant and implacable: The 7th is where each is running.
Mica is bullish on his chances in the Aug. 14 primary, saying not only that he is definitely running but that he is “running on 12 cylinders.”
“I work like an SOB,” he told Roll Call. “We’ve secured almost all of the elected political support. We’ve secured almost all of the party support. We’ve secured almost all of the business support,” he said.
But asked about tea party backing, Mica said, “I’ve appealed to them, too.”
Jason Hoyt, an influential tea party organizer based in central Florida, said he has spoken with Adams and Mica. Hoyt described the grass-roots conservative movement as being strongly with Adams, despite her vote in favor of the Budget Control Act.
“I think he just represents so much more of the establishment,” Hoyt said of Mica. “He’s just not connecting to people. I just think he’s out of touch.”
That’s a theme that Adams seems likely to emphasize.
“He loves earmarks. He likes to spend,” Adams said. “I think we need to control our spending.”