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Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos was in full damage control mode Wednesday, the day after a St. Augustine radio host hung up on the U.S. Senate hopeful for refusing to answer whether he would support Rep. Paul Ryan’s controversial budget.
Over the course of more than four minutes Tuesday, radio host Ray Junior asked Haridopolos 10 times whether he would support the Wisconsin Republican’s budget and its associated changes to Medicare.
“As you know, that’s one of the major issues going around,” Haridopolos said, avoiding Junior’s first attempt to get him on the record. “But what I’ve been talking about is what we’ve actually accomplished on the state level.”
Haridopolos is running in the GOP primary for Senate in Florida against former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who supports the Ryan plan, and former Sen. George LeMieux, who said he prefers his own budget. The winner will take on two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in a race that Roll Call Politics rates a Tossup.
Haridopolos evaded the question, saying he did not have all the information on the Ryan budget, protesting to Junior that he had been asked on the show to discuss his accomplishments and then insisting that he didn’t want to engage in hypotheticals.
“No, no, no. You’re not doing that, Mike,” Junior shot back. “Every single thing a person talks about when they’re on the campaign trail is a hypothetical. I’m asking you: Would you vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on Ryan?”
When Haridopolos avoided answering the question a 10th time, Junior chuckled and said he had enough.
“Ok, get him off my phone. I don’t want anything to do with this guy — get rid of him,” the host said.
National Democrats gleefully sent around a story about the incident, and Rick Wilson, a media consultant who works for Hasner’s campaign, blasted out a release noting, “How can voters trust Senators Haridopolos or LeMieux to stand up for Florida if they aren’t even willing to say where they stand on the important issues?”
The Haridopolos campaign sent out a release Wednesday afternoon saying the candidate supported the “goals” of Ryan’s budget. “While I support almost every provision of the Ryan Plan, I believe that it must be amended to provided greater protections for Seniors,” the statement said, without specifying what provisions Haridopolos did not support.
This is not the first campaign misstep for Haridopolos. He was slapped with an admonishment by the Florida Senate this year for failing to accurately disclose his finances on required forms, and he has been dogged by questions about an unpublished book on Florida politics — recently made available on Amazon.com — for which he was paid $152,665 by a community college.
“The old adage that all press is good press is unquestionably false,” he wrote in the book, “Florida Legislative History and Processes.”
But Haridopolos’ book also had some soothing advice for aspiring politicians who find themselves in a media mess: “Perhaps the most critical lesson for a candidate to remember is that, despite the media’s influence, every story is transient.”
His GOP opponents — and Democrats nationwide — are hoping the Ryan budget and Medicare story is an exception to that rule.