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Fla. Senate Hopeful Hasner Takes Risk by Backing Medicare Overhaul

There are more people on Medicare in Florida than any other state except California. So it’s no surprise that Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed Medicare overhaul is tricky political territory in the Sunshine State.

The state’s three Republican Senate candidates have run the gamut from equivocation to intense support for the Wisconsin Republican’s plan, which would revamp the federal health insurance program for seniors. Under the proposal, users would buy private insurance, and Medicare would help subsidize the cost by making payments to the chosen plan. The proposal would not affect seniors 55 and older.

When the St. Petersburg Times asked Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos this week whether he would vote for the plan, he replied with a non-answer. “I think it still has some issues, but he is moving us in the right direction,” the Republican said.

Former Sen. George LeMieux told the newspaper that he prefers his own plan over Ryan’s.

Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner took what may the boldest and riskiest stance by doubling down on his previous support for Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity.”

“While others stick their fingers in the wind to see what the election results from last night mean for their support of the Ryan Plan, I remain steadfast in my support,” he said in a statement released Wednesday, referring to Democrat Kathy Hochul’s win over Republican Jane Corwin in a special election in New York’s 26th district. “In fact, my only complaint with the Path to Prosperity Plan is that it does not go far enough, fast enough, to address Washington’s unsustainable spending. Unlike my opponents, I would vote for the plan without hesitation.”

Over the past few months, the candidates have all attempted to position themselves to the right of each other and to ingratiate themselves with the state’s conservative grass roots. Hasner, by rhetoric alone, appears to have won this round.

But he also opened himself to attacks by national Democrats.

“Adam Hasner not only wants to end Medicare in order to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy and tax subsidies for oil companies, he’s attacking his fellow Republicans for not staking out such an extreme view,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee press secretary Shripal Shah said in a statement to Roll Call. “This is not what the public wants, and if Adam Hasner, George LeMieux and Mike Haridopolos didn’t get that message last night, they will certainly hear it next November.”
A big measure of the seriousness of Hasner’s and LeMieux’s campaigns will come in July, when the Federal Election Commission will release their fundraising numbers. They both announced their candidacies after the FEC’s first-quarter filing deadline, so no figures have been made public. Haridopolos raised a stunning $2.6 million in the first quarter.

Whoever wins the GOP primary will face two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D). 

Roll Call Politics rates the Florida Senate race a Tossup.