Democrat Beaven Takes Aim at Incumbent Mica
One problem. She's up against a strong political incumbent with 18 years in Congress who has more than $1 million to spend in a campaign where he is the hands-on favorite. U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Orlando, is so confident of his chances that he won't even be campaigning until the fall.
“We ramp it up later in September,” Mica said Tuesday.
Beaven, 41, announced her candidacy nearly a year ago, but has mostly run a low-key campaign. She's continued working full time as the chief executive officer of The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida's Graduates, a non-profit that promotes education as a way to further the economy, even though political veterans have advised her to campaign full time.
That means less time to walk door-to-door, attend political events and raise money.
“So yeah, that means that campaigning happens, you know, a lot of 2:30 in the morning on Facebook kind of talk,” she said. “Stuff like that. My husband and I raised the first $20,000 or so literally in bed, with him on one laptop, me on the other laptop, Facebooking everyone we could think of at 1:30 in the morning.”
Beaven has honed in on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as a way to target Mica, who has received contributions from the oil industry in the past and whose brother David lobbies for the Florida Petroleum Council. The congressman has said in the past that his votes are not connected to his family ties and an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, D.C.-based organization that analyzes federal campaign finance data, found that though he did receive contributions from the oil industry, it did not rank among the top five industry contributors to his campaign.
Still, the connections are there, Beaven said.
“It's an appropriate discussion, to drill or not to drill,” she said. “He can come down on one side and I can come down on the other side and that's just fine. That's not why I'm hitting him. What I'm hitting is the incestual relationship. He can't not be for it. He's too entangled and he has a conflict of interest. And actually it's not just him. I think we need a better conflict of interest policy. If your entire family makes money off of an industry, you need to declare that before you vote on that legislation.”
Mica, 67, said he believes he “has a great record,” which will stand for itself. But he declined to say what he thought of his opponent or her criticisms of him because he is maintaining a policy of not campaigning until the fall, when most of his congressional work is wrapped up. The two have not formally met, though Beaven said she would like to debate the congressman as it gets closer to November.
“She comes out with some outrageous claim every week, so we don't respond to it,” Mica said.
Mica has handily defeated all of his opponents since his initial election in 1992, usually bringing in more than 60 percent of the vote. The district, which includes the counties of Flagler, Orange, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns and Volusia, is heavily Republican.
The political waters may be ripe for someone with no political record, like Beaven, with long time incumbents being ousted in Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia so far in this election cycle. But Mica also believes it will be a Republican year, much like it was in 1994 when Newt Gingrich led the Republican takeover of Congress.
“This is an incredible Republican wave, maybe even bigger than 1994,” he said.
Even if Beaven can make inroads over the oil issue, Mica’s name recognition still likely outweighs that. His incumbency gives him more visibility and the chance to directly assist in constituent issues if needed. He's also the lead Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has gotten plenty of attention because of it's role in directing rail money to Florida.
“I lead the commitee in Congress and I'm pretty active in district projects,” he said. “That's my major emphasis and I think we have a strong record for constituent services. And right now we're focusing on jobs and the economy.”
Still, Beaven has gotten some endorsements from prominent sources. Former U.S. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle has released statements on her behalf. The AFL-CIO has endorsed her and so has the Veterans' Alliance for Security and Democracy.
But she lags way behind in money and has yet to hire a campaign manager. Compared to Mica's $1 million, she has about $35,000 cash ready to spend. Beaven said raising money in a district that has been hit so badly by the recession has been difficult. In Flagler County alone, the unemployment rate is 15.1 percent, the highest in the state.
“It's especially hard in a district where you know they don't have money,” Beaven said. “And even if they're fortunate to still have a job, they're probably a $100,000 under water on their house or they don't know how long they'll have their job.”