Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos is hoping to have the tea party movement on his side as he runs for the U.S. Senate. But a failed immigration bill may be dragging him down.
As Kenric Ward of the conservative Sunshine State News reports, Haridopolos showed up this week to address the Manatee County Tea Party, and walked into a “hornet’s nest”:
State Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ appearance at Tea Party Manatee’s “Meet the Candidate” night wasn’t exactly a love fest. In fact, it was about as chippy as a Heat-Bulls playoff game.
While the U.S. Senate-hopeful gamely defended his record at Tallahassee, the Bradenton audience zeroed in on the 2011 Legislature’s failure to enact an E-Verify immigration bill.
After the Merritt Island Republican reminded the crowd of 75 that the Senate passed an E-Verify bill, and reiterated that he is not a “dictator,” tea party member Judi Hood fumed:
“No one is buying his blame game. We all know he could have passed Senator Alan Hays’ SB 518 (a stand-alone mandatory E-Verify bill) early. It would have been a good, easy, clean match with Representative Gayle Harrell’s E-Verify bill and could have passed quickly.”
Instead, Hood said Haridopolos “allowed [Sen.] J.D. Alexander excessive floor time to try to convince all the senators that E-Verify was flawed. He then put Senator [John] Thrasher, who has no facts on E-Verify, in the position of defender of the mandatory E-Verify, instead of Senator Hays.
“I’d call this a ‘setup,’ just like the Republican leadership has been doing for all the past sessions while Haridopolos has been there.”
Haridopolos apparently tried to explain that balancing the budget and “government reform” were higher priorities than immigration this session (they had to get those leadership funds, the saggy pants law and 5 abortion bills done, pronto!) But the teas were having none of it.
An immigration activist named George Fuller fired off a letter to Haridopolos after Tuesday’s meeting, accusing him of including “side issues” in the immigration debate that “ensured defeat.” Fuller added this flourish, according to Ward:
You, sir, threw the 1 million unemployed workers in the state under the bus by your actions as leader.”
And another tea party activist demanded to know why Haridopolos didn’t offer “sweetheart deals” to the four breakaway Republican state Senators who refused to support an E-Verify/”papers please” bill to get their votes … just like Harry Reid would.
The failure of Republicans to pass an anti-immigration bill could prove to be an Achilles heal for Haridopolos, and for Republicans in general in 2012. Tea party groups were furious when the session ended without a bill, and signs point to their not letting the GOP live it down. That could mean less enthusiasm, and less help for Republicans in 2012.