The scene in Pensacola today became unbearable long before Congressman Connie Mack III (R-Ft. Myers) arrived at the gas station. The U.S. senate hopeful was in townâat a Raceway station on Nine Mile Roadâcampaigning and preaching the gospel of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Mackâs visit was scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday. His prep team arrived a few minutes prior and blocked off pump number three, setting up a microphone and campaign signs.
As the advance guys waited for Mack, it became apparent that the candidateâs appearance would be less then glossy. The waiting crowd consisted of two members of the media, Escambia County Commission candidate Sam Archer, a guy who decided to stick around after pumping gas, two folks whoâd later request a photo with Mack and a guy with a ponytail in a Florida Gator sun visor and Obama pin becoming increasingly agitated.
âWhy arenât we using what God gave us?â the man in the visor questioned Archer as they waited for the show to begin. âThe wind, the sun?!â
Rep. Mack is currently on a tour of Florida as he attempts to make it to the U.S. senate. This week has seen him make campaign stops in Ft. Myers, Miami and Tampa. Tomorrow he goes to Tallahassee.
âWeâre trying to pack in as much as we can,â said Jeff Bechdel, the campaignâs deputy communications director, as he waited for the candidate.
Eventually, a dark Ford SUV pulled into the Raceway parking lot and Bechdel signaled that the candidate was arriving. The Ford parked at pump number one and the candidate stepped up to the microphone at pump number three.
Mack didnât seem phased by the scenario. He didnât seem to notice that there were only a half dozen people listening to him at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and one of them was about ready to lose it.
The candidate said that it was time to go ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline. He said the project would create jobs and decrease the countryâs dependency on Middle Eastern and South American oil. Mack called the pipeline âvery environmentally friendly.â
At the end of his brief comments, Rep. Mack took questions from those gathered around pump number three. The first question pertained to the candidateâs claims regarding the Keystoneâcritics have charged that most of the jobs associated with the project will be short-term and the oil will travel to a Gulf of Mexico port where it will be put onto the world market, as opposed to alleviating supply needs in the U.S.
âThose are two liberal, flawed arguments,â Mack said.
While conceding that the oil would travel from Canada, through the U.S.âover Nebraskaâs sensitive sandhills and one of the countryâs major aquifersâ to be sold onto the world market, Mack said that it was better to be supporting a Canadian venture than purchasing oil elsewhere. He also noted that two Florida companies stood to participate in the pipelineâs construction.
âAnyone else?â Mack said, looking to the handful of people on the other side of the oil-stained fueling station.
The man in the Gator visorâBarry Goodsonâhad been raising his hand for some time already. When the candidate acknowledged him, the man let loose concerning the pipeline and eventually got around to asking if he also supported drilling in the Gulf of Mexico off of Floridaâs coast.
After deflecting a couple of more questions regarding the Keystone pipelineâs environmental effect, Mackâs team called the game.
âThank you!â Bechdel announced, motioning for Mack to get back into the Ford.
But Goodson wasnât finished. He continued to press the candidate about various points regarding the Keystone project.
âNorthwest Florida doesnât appreciate a snake-oil salesman,â he told Mack.
The candidate stepped away from his pump number three post and engaged Goodson, who called the lawmakerâs claims regarding Keystone âbogus.â
âTell me whatâs bogus?â Mack said, making his way back to his vehicle.
Goodson continued to hammer Mack. He talked about how he didnât think the pipeline would decrease foreign-oil dependency and about short-term jobs and environmental hazards.
The candidate posed for a photo with two people standing near the Ford, and then promptly left the Raceway station.
âHe called me a loudmouth,â Goodson said afterwards. âHe called me a jackass. The jackass is him!â