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THE ISSUE: U.S. Senate races.
OUR OPINION: Nelson for Democrats; Weldon for Republicans.
The Democratic and Republican Party primary races for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat each have a candidate who is the clear choice.
In the Democratic race, incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson’s stature as a public servant towers over his opponent. On the Republican ballot, former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon has demonstrated that he’s best suited to represent the citizens of Florida.
A native son of Florida, Nelson, 69, has a distinguished 40-year record of public service as a member of the Florida Legislature, Florida Cabinet, U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Throughout his public service, he has championed the environment, education and consumers.
Although a loyalist who sides with his party on most issues, he has on occasion bucked his party’s leadership. Most recently, he favors extending the Bush-era tax cuts for anyone earning less than $1 million instead of the $250,000 favored by his party’s leadership.
In this age of partisan politics, Nelson has called for greater bipartisanship and civility between the political parties and factions. In this regard, he has set the example by forging a mutually respectful and collegial relationship with Florida’s Republican freshman senator, Marco Rubio.
Nelson’s challenger, Glenn Burkett, 62, can best be described as a political lightweight who is not a viable candidate. A Naples resident, Burkett is a natural health and wellness educator. A perennial candidate, Burkett ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for governor in 2006 and the U.S. Senate primary in 2010, garnering 3.8 percent and 6.5 percent of the vote, respectively.
The Republican primary race has been narrowed to two viable candidates: U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV and former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon.
Mack, 44, is the presumptive front-runner given that his father, Connie Mack III, was a popular senator until retiring in 2001 and his great-grandfather was the legendary baseball manager and Hall of Famer Connie Mack. Also, as a sitting congressman, he has built a political network that affords him the inside track.
The race, however, has revealed several shortcomings that could derail Mack’s U.S. Senate seat bid. Missing more than twice as many votes in the House as the average member since taking office, his work habits are questionable. His wavering policy positions appear to be guided more by opportunism than principle. Further, his arrogant refusal to meet with editorial boards, debate his GOP rivals and participate in candidate forums makes his temperament for public service suspect.
Weldon, 58, a physician, was elected to the U.S. House in 1994 and served until 2008, when he decided not to seek re-election in favor of returning to his medical practice. During his 14-year tenure, he proved to be a thoughtful and collegial legislator who placed principle above partisanship, displaying a willingness to work across party lines.
A social and fiscal conservative, Weldon is a serious candidate genuinely concerned about the pressing challenges facing our nation. Extremely well informed, he is a realist who has the political courage to make the tough calls that best serve our country’s long-term interests.
The Chronicle Editorial Board recommends Bill Nelson and Dave Weldon as the clear choices for the U.S. Senate.
Candidates not endorsed by the Chronicle Editorial Board are invited to issue rebuttals. They may be emailed to editor Charlie Brennan at email@example.com.