In 2011, the feisty Democratic West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel set her sights on taking out tea party favorite U.S. Rep. Allen West.
Former state House majority leader Adam Hasner officially threw himself into the GOP U.S. Senate primary and tried to distinguish himself as the top conservative.
But the political battle lines have changed. Now, the two will face each other for the 22nd Congressional District seat that includes portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties. The newly drawn district leans left and prompted West to go north to compete in a more conservative district.
Democrats have about a 9 percentage point voter registration edge over Republicans in the district that stretches from Fort Lauderdale to Riviera Beach. Barack Obama won there in 2008; Republican Marco Rubio won it in the Senate race in 2010.
Both Hasner and Frankel have raised just shy of $3 million and have big-name connections: former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Frankel, while Hasner is a Jewish surrogate for Romney.
Hasner’s challenge is to lose the ultra conservative label, while Frankel has tried to overcome her reputation as an abrasive mayor who stonewalled opponents.
“She has her share of liabilities,” said David Wasserman, House editor at the Washington-based Cook Political Report, which puts this race in the leaning Democratic category. “Republicans need to find a way to capture that and cast her as an unacceptable representative in Washington.”
However, “Democrats will absolutely hammer Hasner as a tea party acolyte who was campaigning for U.S. Senate as the most conservative person in the race and obviously now he has to posture a little more to the middle to win the district.”
Hasner won his first legislative seat in 2002 and became House Majority leader in 2007. The following year, he became the first House member to raise $1 million.
“He is clearly conservative,” said Sid Dinerstein, chair of the Palm Beach County Republicans. “He is very protective of all of our money.”
While running in the Senate primary, Hasner praised the tea party movement and said that Rubio once called him the "most partisan Republican in Tallahassee.”
But his record on issues was more nuanced than he portrayed. He was once described as the consummate Republican insider — down to his red, white and blue boots made from elephant skin. While he battled labor unions and fought to reject $444 million in federal stimulus money for unemployment compensation, he also supported a watered-down climate change law, favored high-speed rail and approved a budget with billions in federal stimulus dollars.
Now he criticizes both parties for the rising debt, which has topped $16 billion.
“Regardless of your political affiliation, I think we can all agree Washington is broken and both parties are to blame ...,” Hasner said at a West Palm Beach forum in September.
Campaigning for Senate in 2011, Hasner said he’d vote for GOP U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan “without hesitation.”
Ryan’s plan would convert Medicare to a voucher plan, calls for a repeal of Obamacare and includes other spending cuts.
Hasner now says he supports the “bipartisan [Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron] Wyden/Ryan” plan, which includes traditional Medicare and the option for seniors to purchase private policies.