DESTIN -- Rick Johnson, a financial advisor from Shalimar is worried.
“I know it’s a tough time in Washington, but another four years of deadlock is not going to move this country forward,’’ he told U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV at a brief campaign stop last month in the military stronghold of Walton County in the Panhandle. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”
Mack didn’t hesitate with the answer. “We’re going to get this country back and that means more jobs, more security and more freedom,’ he said. “I appreciate you coming out.”
It doesn’t get more complicated than that for Mack, 45, a nine-year Republican congressman from Fort Myers who is challenging incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for the U.S. Senate.
The antidote to the nation’s debt crisis, its budget stalemate and its health care woes are clarion clear to Mack, who describes himself as “proud, mainstream conservative.”
“Freedom is the core of all human progress,’’ he told an audience in Tampa last week. “It believes that nothing’s given to us, but if you’re willing to work hard. If you’re willing to compete, the American dream is there for you.”
The solution to the debt: a penny per dollar reduction in the nation’s spending. The “Penny Plan” would balance the budget in 10 years, Mack said, a claim Congress’ independent budget arm acknowledged can be done. The cost is estimated at $7.5 trillion, including deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and the Defense Department.
The budget crisis: Mack voted against the House Republican budget advocated by Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan last year, arguing that even though it was necessary to avert a government shutdown the proposal “doesn’t balance the budget soon enough.”
Healthcare: Mack wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace Obamacare with a program that includes giving seniors a fixed-benefit Medicare entitlement that depends primarily on the private market.
On each of these issues, Mack sees compromise as weakness. He’s not afraid to stand on principle, even if it puts him in the minority within his own party or delegation. In 2005, for example, Mack was the only Florida delegation member to oppose an oil drilling compromise that imposed a 150-mile buffer along Florida’s coast. He supports more oil drilling closer to shore.
And Mack is not among the Republicans who has tried to distance himself from Mitt Romney’s controversial “47 percent remarks,” referring to the percentage of Americans who do not pay income taxes and are “dependent” on the government.
"Clearly, he was discussing our economic system, which because of excessive government interference, often hurts the very people it’s meant to help and creates a tax system that is wildly disproportional across our economy,’’ Mack said when Romney’s remarks at a fundraiser became public.
Mack’s confidence in the mantra of “more freedom, less taxes” stems from the success of his father, Connie Mack III, who employed the same themes in his two Senate campaigns.
“He believes in basically the same thing I believe in — a smaller, limited government that gives more individual freedom, that lowers taxes to create growth and fewer regulations to give an opportunity for the development of new jobs,’’ the elder Mack said. “As a dad, it’s kind of exciting to see that your son follows what you believe in so strongly.”