U.S. Senate candidate Adam Hasner has been attacking his rival for the Republican nomination, former U.S. Sen. George Lemieux, almost daily for being a moderate, and a one-time supporter of former Gov. Charlie Crist. What Hasner has yet to admit is that at one time, not so long ago, he billed himself as a moderate Republican, and a Crist supporter.
On Feb. 19, 2008, the Palm Beach County Voters Coalition, a liberal-leaning but ostensibly nonpartisan organization, honored then-Gov. Crist at its 25th anniversary dinner in West Palm Beach. A photo of Crist was on the program cover, and the event was billed as “Placing People Above Party.”
At the time, Crist’s approval ratings were sky-high, and Hasner was “honored to stand with Gov. Crist” celebrating “people above party.” How do I know that? Because Hasner said so, in his own ad, which was on Page 38 of the Voters Coalition program.
The other elected officials who took out program ads and used them to publicly praise Crist were: former Florida House Rep. Richard Machek, then a candidate for property appraiser; County Commissioner Burt Aaronson; U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler; Kevin Rader, then a candidate for the Florida House; Florida Reps. Kelly Skidmore and Maria Sachs; Sheriff Ric Bradshaw; School Board candidate Frank Barbieri and state Sen. Dave Aronberg. All of these men and women, by the way, are Democrats.
The only other Republican to place a program ad — and salute Crist in it — was then-Florida Sen. Jeff Atwater.
In his own words
On June 9, Adam Smith of the St. Petersburg Times political blog, “The Buzz,” reported on Hasner’s moderate Republican past in “Back in the day, he was moderate Adam Hasner.”
Smith published several quotes from the Sun Sentinel dating back to 2004, including these illuminating gems. Hasner “has become a moderate voice in the Florida House and fit in well with his more conservative Republican colleagues,” the paper’s Editorial Board said in October 2004 in endorsing Hasner’s re-election bid.
“Hasner described himself as a moderate Republican who opposed expanding the state’s private-school voucher program until greater accountability measures are added,” a Sun Sentinel news reporter wrote the next month in a story about Hasner’s victory over challenger Doug West.
“A rising star with moderate leanings and leadership hopes.” That was the Sentinel’s description of Hasner in May 2004.
Rick Wilson, Hasner’s senior Senate campaign advisor, fired back on the moderate label, for Smith’s June post, telling the St. Pete Times blogger, “This has never been a guy who ran as a moderate and certainly not a guy who governed as a moderate.”
The Wilson response seemed, on its face, logical and appeared to put the “moderate” fire out. After all, Hasner can’t control what the liberal mainstream media says about him, and a conservative like Hasner would never run as a moderate. Just another biased media report trying to smear a good conservative, right?
Campaigning the moderate trail
Hasner not only sought the moderate Republican label, he actively campaigned on it. But, hey, don’t take the word of the liberal media, or even the conservative media. Take a look at Hasner’s own campaign mailer from 2004, where he highlights one of the very quotes Wilson denies. Hasner even added a quote from the now-defunct Boca Raton News, which praised the Boca Raton legislator for being “well rounded in his views and not stuck on following party lines.”
In the June blog post, Smith writes: “This was back in the day when Hasner was touting his hybrid vehicle, and his efforts to push electric car tax incentives and legislation to address climate change and prepare for cap and trade, and before he started venting about Sharia law.”
Not only is all that true, but there’s more. At least according to Hasner. In this 2006 mailer, Hasner brags about “voting to increase funding by over $750 million for Palm Beach and Broward schools since 2003 — that’s a 30% increase and over $1,500 more per student!” Hasner also talks about supporting growth management legislation, affordable housing, beach restoration and “farm-to-fuel” subsidies for “bio-fuels and solar energy,” and more.
But that’s about what you can expect from a mailer whose flip side quotes a prospective voter as saying: “I am a Democrat. I have always voted Democrat. On Tuesday, I’m voting for Adam Hasner.”
In today’s political climate, campaigns attack writers and reporters for presenting facts and telling the truth. So let me put this on the record: Not one bit of the information included in this post came from campaign operatives or outside sources. This isn’t about opposition research, just good, old-fashioned spring cleaning.
As my Facebook friends know, I had to renovate my office not long ago because of a water leak. During the project, I spent a lot of time sorting through about 20,000 mailers I have been saving for almost 18 years – mailers that hit my mailboxes and yours. I guess you’d say I’m a bit of a pack rat, but I find it interesting from time to time to go “back in the day” and see how politics, and some politicians, have changed over the years. And these mailers are among the most illuminating.
The picture painted by Hasner’s own mailers and ads is one of a moderate Republican from a Democratic-leaning county doing what he thought necessary to win election. When the polls said it was better to be a moderate Republican and a Crist supporter, that’s what Hasner was. It is up to conservative primary voters to decide if Hasner’s move to the right is sincere, or if he’s just a poll-driven career politician trying to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.
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