George LeMieux quits race for U.S. Senate in Florida

Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux has dropped out of the 2012 race for the United States Senate in Florida.

In a statement released early Wednesday on YouTube, LeMieux indicated that the Republican Party had thrown its support behind U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV.  As a sitting United States Congressman, Mack enjoys widespread recognition.  

LeMieux said he could only match that support with substantial advertising or the opportunity to debate on statewide television.

LeMieux was seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

LeMieux was appointed in 2009 to the U.S. Senate by former Gov. Charlie Crist to complete the term after Sen. Mel Martinez resigned.  Crist ran for the seat in 2010 without party affiliation and lost to current Sen. Marco Rubio.

U.S. Rep. Mack is the front runner for the GOP nomination.  Others candidates include U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon and retired Army Col. Mike McCalister.

Media release from the LeMieux campaign:

“For 16 months I had the privilege of my life serving the people of Florida in the United States Senate. What I witnessed compelled me to return.  Bloated government that keeps job creators from hiring and a government so far in debt that it will bankrupt this nation by the end of the decade if serious changes are not made.

We have campaigned on ideas, to balance the budget, to create jobs, to gain independence from foreign oil, and to improve our children’s education. And while our campaign has been strong, gaining support and winning straw polls, the decision has been made by party leadership that there is a better candidate to face Bill Nelson.

The establishment has thrown their support behind my competitor, Connie Mack. Ahead of us in the polls, the Mack name enjoys widespread recognition that can only be matched with substantial advertising or the opportunity to debate on statewide television.

Advertising, which our finances cannot support, and debates, which my competitor won’t agree to.

It is not my nature to step aside, but there is a reality to running a statewide race in Florida. Without the resources or the opportunity to debate, our message simply cannot be heard.

This campaign was never about me. It was about my four kids, and your kids and grand kids. And ensuring that they inherit an America with as much opportunity and prosperity as the America left to us.

As a former party chairman, I know that sometimes for the good of the party, and the good of the nation, a candidate has to bow out gracefully. In order to have the best chance to defeat Bill Nelson and put the Senate in Republican hands, today we will end our campaign.

To continue would only hurt our chances in the fall, and that is not something that I will risk. Connie Mack will be our nominee. He has my support. 

Words cannot express how grateful I am for all of you that supported our endeavor. You have my friendship and eternal gratitude. To all of our supporters, 67 county chairs, the 35 state legislators that endorsed me, as well as the dozen of opinion leaders that lent their effort to our team, our finance team, and everyone who opened their homes and their hearts to me, thank you. I will always be grateful for your support.

For now, I will continue to fight for our candidates and our conservative values, and look forward to reengaging in my law practice at the Gunster Firm. And most importantly spending more time with my wife Meike, and our four children, Max, Taylor, Chase and Madeleine, or as I like to say—three monkeys and a princess.

2012 is the more important election of our lifetime. Please do everything you can to support our candidates. And from the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

RPOF Chairman Dave Bitner Resigns

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Dave Bitner has stepped down from his post due to complications from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,”

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  Bitner learned in April that he had the disease.

In an emotionally charged teleconference with RPOF state executive committee members, Bitner announced that he was stepping down on Friday, September 23rd during the Presidency 5, and strongly encouraged party unity in standing behind Lenny Curry, not only as party Vice Chairman, but as his successor.

In a letter released by Chairman Bitner announcing his resignation:

My fellow Republicans,

When I disclosed a medical diagnosis that comes with tremendous challenges, you opened your hearts and have never wavered in your support. For myself and Wendy, I offer my heartfelt gratitude for those displays of love and kindness.

At the time I first discussed my health with you, I also made a promise that I would serve as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida only as long as I could do so with all the energy and attention this position deserves. I have kept that promise, and it has been the honor of a lifetime to serve you and my beloved Florida.  The position of Chairman was not my life’s ambition, but through prayer and faith I came to understand that it was another opportunity to serve my community.

Today, amidst speculation about my current capacity to serve as your Chairman, I wanted to update you. Whether out of malice or in the interest of political posturing, some who had been entrusted with my thoughts about the future shared that information with the media. Something I would never allow to happen on my watch is for the future of the RPOF to be called into question. So, today, after talking with my wife, my friends, and trusted advisors, I have decided to resign my position as Chairman effective Friday, September 23.

Pursuant to Article IX, section 2, of the Constitution of the Republican State Executive Committee of Florida, I hereby call a special meeting of the State Committee for the purpose of a special election.   Such special meeting shall be held on Friday, September 23 in Orlando, Florida at the Rosen Centre hotel.

In the days between now and that special election, I will continue to work with our Vice Chairman Lenny Curry to advance our Republican vision of making Florida a better place now and in the future. Since our election to Chairman and Vice Chairman, Lenny and I have worked side-by-side on every important RPOF initiative. Through it all, our Vice Chairman has shown the leadership and tenacity that makes our party such an effective political force.

These demonstrations of leadership and commitment to our Republican cause not only make Lenny a great Vice Chairman; they also make him the best qualified leader for our party moving forward to the 2012 elections. Therefore, I respectfully ask for your vote to make Lenny Curry the next Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Lenny is more than qualified to continue the work I have begun, and there is no need for the party to face a protracted race or divisive infighting. In fact, now is the time for us to come together and focus on moving our state and nation in the right direction.

In closing, I want to reiterate the joy I have had working with you. Now is a time when Wendy and I look to God for his grace and wisdom as we write my life’s next chapter.

Dave Bitner