Browning Wins Tea Party Poll; Has a ‘Puncher’s Chance’
As voters in Clay and Duval counties prepare to go the polls on Tuesday, conservative insurgent Don Browning appears to be gaining momentum in his seemingly improbable bid to unseat eleven-term U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns in the 6th congressional district.
At least one newspaper in the district concedes that the little-known challenger has at least a “puncher’s chance” against the longtime incumbent.
If you like a good underdog, Browning is definitely your candidate.
Stearns, who was first elected to Congress in 1988 and is one of only two Republican lawmakers in the 25-member Florida congressional delegation facing primary opposition on Tuesday, probably isn’t too worried, but stranger things have happened.
Particularly in a volatile election year like this, when voter discontent appears to be at an all-time high.
Browning’s long-shot candidacy received a last-minute boost on Saturday when he won an overwhelming 93.2 percent of the vote in a straw poll conducted by the Gainesville Tea Party, a non-partisan organization committed to fiscal responsibility, limited government and the free market.
The group is about as conservative as one can imagine and shares Browning’s disdain for the Washington establishment and his oft-repeated assertion that Stearns, long considered invincible, has spent most of the past 22 years “increasing the nation’s debt” — saddling future generations with a debt of nearly $13.4 trillion.
According to the group’s leader, 62 members participated in Saturday’s straw poll, which gave GOP U.S. Senate frontrunner Marco Rubio an almost identical percentage of the vote. Rubio faces two little-known challengers in Tuesday’s primary.
“Based upon our straw poll results, our members clearly support Don Browning over Cliff Stearns,” said Karianne Wilkins, leader of the Gainesville Tea Party, which currently boasts 1,000 members on its e-mail list.
“Likely the main reason behind this is that Cliff Stearns has been in office for over 20 years and people feel that is long enough,” Wilkins told the Jacksonville Observer. “They are ready for a change and someone who is willing to shake things up in Washington. That’s what Don Browning represents.”
A tireless and indefatigable campaigner, Browning has been vastly outspent by Stearns, but refuses to acknowledge the long odds facing his candidacy.
A former pugilist — Browning was an amateur boxer when he was in the Navy — the 68-year-old retired Weirsdale businessman and citizen-activist knows what it will take to KO his entrenched rival.
It’ll take more than a lucky punch.
Browning knows his way around the ring, and some would argue that he’s outclassed the incumbent in terms of both stamina and speed.
Having crisscrossed the sprawling district more times than he can remember over the past several months while Stearns has rarely been seen, the colorful, white-haired challenger will be looking to land that one powerful punch on Tuesday, the unexpected blow that every boxer hopes to deliver against an otherwise heavily-favored opponent.
Stay tuned. This should be an interesting match.
Read more about Don Browning in this interview at Battleground Blog.