TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - With the Florida legislative session over, attention is turning to the U.S. Senate race and the Republican primary to determine who will challenge Sen. Bill Nelson next year.
Just hours after ending his first session as state Senate president Saturday, Mike Haridopolos traveled to Tampa where he addressed the Hillsborough County Republicans, boasting about tax cuts, Medicaid changes and other bills the Legislature passed this year and promising to continue working for policy that helps the economy.
In the room were his two rivals for the Republican nomination, former state Rep. Adam Hasner and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux. They didn't have a speaking role, but they worked the crowd in what will be a key county to win next year.
Haridopolos kept his remarks limited to what he's doing in his current job.
"If you like what we've done so far - spending less, taxing less, reforming education, reforming pensions, reforming the broken Medicaid system - you ain't seen nothing yet," Haridopolos said. "The best days in Florida are ahead of ourselves, and we're going to go right back to work tomorrow to make sure that next year we'll do even more to stimulate jobs, stimulate opportunity."
But LeMieux, who was appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist to fill the remaining 16 months of Sen. Mel Martinez's term, said before the dinner that the Legislature didn't go far enough to advance Gov. Rick Scott's conservative agenda.
"There were some good things that were done in the session, but obviously there were some things that fell short. They cut corporate taxes, but they only cut them a little. They didn't do enough on immigration. I think that Governor Scott had a bold agenda and I think the Legislature supported it to some extent, but not as much as they should have," said LeMieux, who served as chief of staff under Crist.
Hasner said he went to sleep hours before the Legislature ended its session and didn't weigh in on what was accomplished - or not accomplished. He said he's focused on federal issues, like the national debt, federal spending, foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa, the recent killing of Osama bin Laden and other issues facing Washington.
"Those are the issues people want to talk about. And I think as I go around the state, they want to hear more about what are my views on that than what are my views on what happened in Tallahassee during the legislative session," Hasner said. "I don't think what happens in Tallahassee is going to dictate the 2012 election."