TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, appointed to his job in mid-2009, said Tuesday he is alarmed by soaring federal spending and that it might prompt him to run in his own right for the Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson in 2012.
LeMieux said that when he gets home to Fort Lauderdale, he'll restart a law practice, but he'll also talk to his wife Meike over the holidays about a possible Senate run.
"We're going to talk and think about it and see what the future holds. If it is something I'm going to do in the short term, then I have to make a decision relatively near term," LeMieux said after speaking to the Capital Tiger Club.
LeMieux was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to finish the last 16 months of Republican Mel Martinez' term. He will be succeeded in January by Rubio, the Republican who won last week's election over Crist — who bolted the GOP to run as an independent — and Democratic U.S Rep. Kendrick Meek.
LeMieux said the national debt, budget deficit and federal spending are issues that worry him and that this concern will factor into whether he decides to run.
"It's compelling," he said. "With great responsibility and great privilege, which I've had, also comes responsibility to take these issues on."
LeMieux called himself a "Charlie Crist Republican" just before the governor appointed him to the seat. Speaking at the luncheon, he sounded much more like Rubio, who was easily elected on a message criticizing President Barack Obama's policies and warning that a rising debt will threaten the nation's security and its standing in the world.
"I always knew that Washington was dysfunctional, I just didn't know how bad it was. Tallahassee looks like the model of efficiency compared to Washington D.C.," LeMieux said. "And the most surprising thing to me, the thing that is most shocking is the way this government misspends your money. It is out of control."
He also said Washington has to change the way it governs and that longtime senators from both parties should be voted out. He called budget earmarks the "gateway drug" to unchecked spending and that he didn't realize how bad a problem it was until he took office.
"It's hammered home, when you see it firsthand. It's far worse than you think it is. If we don't get a hold of it, it's going to put at peril the future of our country, and not in 20 years, in this decade," LeMieux said. "I'm worried about the future of my country. I don't want my four kids to grow up in a world of a diminished America."
During the luncheon, LeMieux was asked if it was difficult backing Rubio after having previously served as Crist's chief of staff and top political adviser.
"It was not fun. It was something that was unpleasant for me to do," LeMieux said before comparing the situation to Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII. More, a top adviser to the king, refused to go along with Henry VIII's decision to break from the Roman Catholic Church.
"I had to stick by my principles. I had to stick by what I believed in," LeMieux said. "Now he got beheaded, so thankfully that didn't happen."
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