Both candidates for Florida’s U.S. Senate race made their way to Pensacola this week en route to Election Day. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) started off the week with a visit to Dharma Blue, followed by Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) today at Seville Quarter.
During their local stops, each candidate continued hitting the high notes of their stump speeches. Nelson recounted his record, while Mack called for a change in the state’s senate representation.
Outside Dharma Blue on Monday, a member of Nelson’s security detail waited with a wire in his ear for the senator to arrive. The restaurant was closed for the afternoon and the crowd inside was ready.
Soon, Nelson walked through the door and stepped before his supporters. He talked about his past accomplishments—the RESTORE Act, and a cleaner Everglades—and said he would continue to fight against the possibility of offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
“This is the only place that is off limits to drilling by law,” Nelson told the crowd, referencing the protection afforded much of the gulf due to military exercises.
The senator told the crowd he didn’t have a lot of funds to run ads in the Panhandle, before offering up a rendition of his latest commercial.
“It’s me, talking straight to the camera,” Nelson explained. “It says, ‘when I flew in space I looked back at the Earth and I did not see any political divisions, I did not see any religious divisions, I did not see any ethnic divisions. What I saw is that we’re all in this together.”
Earlier, during the senator’s introduction, local supporter Buzz Ritchie had urged people to get out and vote for Nelson. He conceded that, while Nelson enjoyed a comfortable lead in other areas of the state, Northwest Florida would be a difficult region for the Democrat.
“Let’s be realistic,” Ritchie cautioned, “we may not win Escambia County, we many not win Santa Rosa County, but every vote counts.”
Nelson wasn’t so quick to turn loose of the Panhandle.
“They said I couldn’t win Escambia, but I won it in 2000 and 2006,” he said, asking the crowd not to “take anything for granted” and vote. “If you will do that with a lot of your friends, that might make the difference.”
Mack held his local rally at Phineas Phoggs inside the Seville Quarter complex. Supporters sat in chairs on the dance floor and enjoyed the bar’s ghastly Halloween decor—ghouls, ghosts and graveyards.
On the sidewalk, Buck Mitchell—who’s family owns Seville Quarter—greeted Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) upon his arrival. The two went inside, as a Mack staffer confirmed that the candidate was still at the airport.
As the crowd waited for the rally to begin, the staffer climbed into the DJ booth above the stage. He stepped over a decorative skeleton and flipped on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”
After a short delay, Mack arrived through a back door with Miller and Sen. John McCain in tow. The trio, joined by Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, made their way to the stage. Morgan introduced Miller, who introduced McCain, who finally introduced Mack.
“We need Connie Mack in the senate,” McCain told the crowd.
During his regular campaign-trail visits to the area, the Arizona senator always appears to feel at home in Pensacola, where he was stationed for flight training. Today, McCain cracked some jokes about his failed run for presidency in 2008, as well as the current approval rating of the nation’s legislators.
The senator evoked a chorus of ‘boo!’ as he threw Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) name onto the dance floor. He also took a swing at President Barack Obama’s military credentials, wondering if the commander-in-chief had ever been on an aircraft carrier and suggested he familiarize himself with the vessels.
“If he can get off the golf course and maybe go out and visit one,” McCain laughed.
Taking his headlining turn before the crowd, Mack immediately laid into his opponent. He said Nelson was given to saying one thing and doing another. The congressman sited the senator’s stated support for closing various tax loopholes.
“Then he goes out and borrows six cows and puts them on his farm to avoid paying property taxes,” Mack repeated a claim he staked out a week earlier during the pair’s only debate.
The representative also said that sending him to the senate would help Republicans get a majority in the presently Democrat-led body.
“We can also make sure Sen. McCain has a gavel in his hand, doesn’t that sound good?” Mack asked, alluding to the possibility of McCain becoming Majority Leader.
The candidate then listed some of his priorities if voters elect him to represent Florida in the senate. He said he would repeal “Obamacare,” the Dodd-Frank bill and help pass a balanced budget.
“Let me add one more: as a United States senator, I will vote for defunding of the U.N,” Mack said, adding that the United Nations had recently stated its intention to monitor the U.S. election. “The only ones that are going to observe elections in the U.S. is Americans.”
Following Mack’s stumping, the candidate joined McCain and Miller in greeting his supporters. They shook hands and signed autographs and posed for pictures. The skeleton in the DJ booth cued up another Springsteen song.