“A day in politics is like an eternity. A lot of recent events have altered the political landscape,” Adam Hasner told me by phone. Until last week was running for the U.S. Senate, but he is now running for the congressional seat vacated by Allen West.
Though Hasner hesitates to compare himself to West, the two have a lot in common. They are both principled, “minorities of minorities” who have to make the case to groups not necessarily receptive to the conservative message. “When you are a black Republican or a Jewish Republican, you have to be even more firm in your beliefs and more principled,” Hasner explains.
The past year Hasner, the former majority leader of the Florida House of Representatives, has been running in a crowded primary to unseat Bill Nelson, the senior U.S. Senator from the Sunshine State.
Though Hasner was endorsed by talk show host, Mark Levin, the Family Research Council, and won the Florida straw poll, Hasner struggled to get the attention he needed. He blames the presidential race for “sucking all of the attention out of the room.” There were 350 articles about the Rubio-Crist race in 2010, but less than fifty about the 2012 contest. Hasner had been leading in the polls against George LeMieux, who Governor Charlie Crist appointed before deciding to run in the Senate contest only to lose to Marco Rubio, but Hasner’s lead collapsed when Rep. Connie Mack joined the race in late October and was endorsed by Mitt Romney.
Now Hasner’s hoping to be Allen West’s reinforcement, not replacement, in Congress. Hasner, who raised $1.3 million in his bid for U.S. Senate still has $666,000 cash on hand and has West’s support. West, in turns, plans to run in a friendlier Palm Beach County-based congressional seat after redistricting made his swing district much more Democratic. All within forty-eight hours, Rep. Tom Rooney moved to a new district in the west; West moved to Rooney’s old district up north.
The son of two New York teacher union members and liberal Democrats, Hasner came of age during the Age of Reagan. “I didn’t inherit conservatism in the bloodstream,” he says, but he paid attention, becoming a lifelong Republican at age 18. “I grew up during the Morning in America. That’s where my politics were shaped.”
Hasner’s bona fides among Jewish conservatives are the genuine article. He likes to joke that he is married into the Jewish conservative movement. His wife, Jillian, worked for the Palm Beach chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Though the district has gotten more Democratic in redistricting, Hasner is confident that he can win in November. “Every election that I won, I over performed,” says Hasner, the first Jewish majority leader of the Florida house of Representatives. “When John Kerry got 51% I got 58%. I got 60% of the vote, Obama got 52%.” He adds: “The district I represented [in the Florida House of Representatives] is compromised in the new district. I know this people, people know me, where I lived my whole life.” Hasner, running in one of the most Jewish congressional districts in the country, might be buttressed by a new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Life showing that Jewish-Americans are turning from the Democratic Party. Jewish identification with the Democrats slipped from 72 to 65% between 2008 to 2011.
Hasner’s likely opponent is Lois Frankel, the former mayor of West Palm Beach. She is, for all intents and purposes, a morph of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the leader of the Democratic National Committee. Wasserman Schultz was Frankel’s protégé.
Hasner understands his role clearly. “This is going to be a battleground seat in the sense,” he promises. “Whoever is running for president, whoever is running for U.S. Senate, well, the way you a state election is just don’t get too badly beaten in Palm Beach and Broward County,” he promises.
Hasner made a name for himself in Tallahassee, Florida. “You are constantly outnumbered and being challeneged by the status quo and what everybody expects you to believe. I’ve proven that that’s the type of individual I am. I’ve called out the Republicans as many times as I’ve called out the Democrats.” He took on Charlie Crist. Hasner pushed to eliminate property taxes; Crist opposed it. Crist wanted to take stimulus money; Hasner opposed it. Crist supported Cap and Trade; Hasner opposed it with Marco Rubio, then Speaker of the Florida State House.
Hasner promises to take on the Republicans in Washington, too. He rattles off the issues where the GOP establishment has been disappointing, among them “our debt and the payroll tax cut.” “What people are looking for are candidates and representatives that are going to work hard, tell it like it is. I’m unafraid to do things when it doesn’t poll well.”
You can get a sense of Hasner’s leadership from this video, taken on April 16, 2011.
“We want our leaders to tell it like it is. And if you’re not going to get the job done, we are going to find somebody else who will. We need to tell them: cut the spending, stop the borrowing, balance the budget, and attack the debt. And we sent that message in 2010, but it was only the beginning. In 2012, we need to send principled, conservative reinforcements to Washington D.C. to get the job done.”
It’s up to the voters of Palm Beach to decide what seems evidence: Adam Hasner is Marco Rubio’s and Allen West’s conservative reinforcement.