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Haridopolos: Run for U.S. Senate depends on performance as Florida Senate president

As he prepares to bang the gavel on his first regular session as Florida Senate President, Mike Haridopolos faces questions about how he’ll juggle his role in the legislature with his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. He said Monday that his success as a candidate will hinge on his performance as a leader now, implementing what could be one of the most challenging legislative agendas in recent memory. #

The biggest order of business will be closing a budget deficit of more than $3 billion without raising taxes — a pledge that precludes measures such as taxing Internet sales which supporters say doesn’t create a new tax but simply enforces one that already exists. #

Among his other priorities are two proposed constitutional amendments set to be approved in his chamber this week, which could appear on the ballot alongside Haridopolos himself. The first aims to exempt the state from federal health care mandates; the second would limit the state’s ability to collect new revenue and issue new debt. #

On other issues, from new restrictions on abortion to House Speaker Dean Cannon’s plans to transform the state Supreme Court, Haridopolos is letting his counterparts and committee chairs take the lead, laying out broad principles — i.e. he’s against abortion, the state needs to limit the growth of Medicaid — without publicly committing to specifics till they’re fully formed. He describes his process as open and methodical. #

“I’m not a dictator,” he said. “As you know, we go through three committees, and obviously they’re going to have fair consideration.” #

In February, he faced questions about whether he would continue to raise funds for his challenge to Sen. Bill Nelson with the legislature in session. State lawmakers aren’t allowed to solicit contributions during session, but that rule doesn’t apply to federal candidates. Haridopolos’s answer came in the form of a question: Will Nelson suspend his fundraising? #

On Monday, Haridopolos took a question from The Miami Herald‘s Marc Caputo: Will he be able to “compartmentalize” his candidacy from his Senate presidency? #

“Look what you’re seeing,” he answered. #

“Is that a yes?” #

“Absolutely.” #

Caputo noted that Haridopolos’ answer appears to contradict something Haridopolos wrote in his now-infamous book, in which the lawmaker described how campaigning takes over a candidate’s life. #

“I think I’ll be successful or unsuccessful based on my performance as Senate president,” he said of his candidacy Monday. #

He went on to say that this year’s session may be the toughest he has faced since he was elected to the legislature in 2001. “This is going to test the mettle of every member of the House and Senate, Republican and Democrat alike,” he said. #

See his comments below: #

Haridopolos: Can candidacy be “compartmentalized?” from Travis Pillow on Vimeo.

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