GOP Senate candidates try to out conservative each other at Pinellas Tea Party event

Mike Haridopolos did not agree that unions need to go when he was asked that question; CL caught Adam Hasner's opening speech but not his responses to that same question (nor did we see any of McCalister).

On the issue of climate change, LeMieux said there is still an ongoing debate about whether it actually exists. He said one reason he opposed cap-and-trade legislation as proposed when he was in the Senate last year was the fact that energy prices would go up if such a bill was passed. He said executives with TECO told him they would have to raise rates by 30 percent.

He said that the U.S. should become more energy dependent, and such a plan should include everything to get us off foreign oil. Of nuclear power he said, "Let's build 50-100 nuclear power plants."

When asked what he thought of climate change, Haridopolos replied succinctly "not much." According to David DeCamp in the Times, Adam Hasner replied "I don't believe in man-made global warming. I don't buy into the alarmist mentality out there that the world is coming to an end."

On the Paul Ryan budget, LeMieux and Hasner support the plan; Hasner said the Ryan plan didn't go far enough, whereas Haridopolos is distinguishing himself in the race by saying that it's too much, too soon. He suggested that the age where benefits would be changed (in Ryan's plan it's 55) should be pushed to the low to mid 40's, saying, "you need time to think about your future. And with Social Security and Medicare, you paid for it, it's not a welfare program."

Hasner said he was the only candidate in the race to not only fully embrace the Ryan plan, but added that his criticism is that "it doesn't go far enough, fast enough!"

On the issue of rail (a hot button for tea party conservatives) LeMIeux said he had to be honest (as if he had a choice) and admitted he supported the high speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando that Rick Scott killed back in January. He said he had been consistent on the topic, unlike other candidates in the race. And he said it was important to know that though critics could feel good about the Rick Scott rejection, "You need to know this," LeMieux said. "That money is not going back to repeal the debt. The money is going to other states. That's the fact."

In many ways, Sunday's candidates forum was no different than any other local event featuring Republican candidates. But the Tea Party element was featured with a question asked to all the candidates about what they felt about Agenda 21, a United Nations plan that is a big subject amongst Tea Partiers.

"I am not for Agenda 21," LeMieux said, though moments earlier he had said he had never heard of it until it was discussed at a Tea Party event in Martin County. "These things creep in," he said, alluding to presumably Agenda 21. "They creep in and they come in under things that sound fine. ...they sound innocuous. But they come with an agenda behind them," where he asked Tea Partiers to be vigilant in making sure such programs aren't being floated about without his knowledge.

When he was asked about Agenda 21, Haridopolos said blandly he didn't like it, before segueing into a bit about former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. He said he was disappointed to read about the former Justice discussing using international law to help make decisions on the Supreme Court.

"Excuse me, but the United States Constitution is doing just fine on its own in my opinion," he said.

Haridopolos did distinguish himself by declaring himself the anti-war candidate, saying he didn't believe the U.S. should be Libya, Syria (does he know something the rest of us don't?), and he also said he believe we should start "moving out" of Iraq and Afghanistan.

You might recall how Haridopolos and Dean Cannon a year and a half ago were very hot on allowing for drilling for oil and natural gas off of Florida's coast? You may have also heard after that little incident a year ago in the Gulf created by BP, he's back at it. Casually on Sunday he said, "I tried to ...until the unfortunate incident in Louisiana, looking at drilling in Florida. Because we need to be self dependent."

As mentioned above, CL didn't stick around to hear Adam Hasner reply to the same set of questions posed to all of the candidates, but we can say that he was by far the most energetic in giving his stump speech.

Hasner pounded home how he's a conservative who can win statewide, mentioning how he was successful in winning his state House seat in Palm Beach County, in the same district that went for John Kerry and Barack Obama in the last two presidential elections. "It's kind of like fighting behind enemy lines."

Hasner's appeal - especially to Tea Partiers - is that he will stand up to not just Democrats, but to Republicans who "stray away from our conservative principals, like Charlie Crist."

He said he was "outraged that there is a full frontal assault on private industry and capitalism by the National Labor Relations Board and that there is an attempt for cap-and-trade in an end run regulatory maneuver at the Environmental Protection Agency."

And he called for Republicans needed to be on offense, and shouldn't worry about "political consequences, " but the consequences to the country if "we failed to act."

George LeMieux says there's no reason anymore to have public employee unions.

That was just one of the provocative comments made at a Tea Party event in Pinellas Park on Sunday where the four leading candidates for the Republican nomination (LeMieux, Mike Haridopolos, Adam Hasner and Mike McCallister) all made appearances and responded to the same set of questions asked by the moderator.

The event took place at the Mainlands of Tamarac community in Pinellas Park.

"I think that unions have largely outlived their time, and I don't understand them in the public arena," LeMieux, who was the first of the four candidates to address the approximately 170 in attendance. "In the public sector, I don't see the reason for having them anymore." He then went on to say that he thought only police, fire and military members should have public pension plans.

"Why should some desk jockey, some bureaucrat, have a pension?" he asked with disgust, adding that the 3 percent that state employees in Florida will now begin to contribute to their pension plans "were not enough."

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