Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Fact-checking George LeMieux

George LeMieux announces he's leaving the race for U.S. Senate.

In a candid video ending his bid for U.S. Senate, George LeMieux said the Republican establishment had gotten behind his competitor, Rep. Connie Mack IV, and the LeMieux campaign lacked the resources to challenge him.

"Ahead of us in the polls, the Mack name enjoys widespread recognition that can only be matched with substantial advertising or the opportunity to debate on statewide television -- advertising, which our finances cannot support, and debates, which my competitor won’t agree to," Mack said on June 20, 2012.

LeMieux was an adviser to then-Gov. Charlie Crist and served briefly in the U.S. Senate when Crist appointed him to fill out the term of Sen. Mel Martinez, who resigned. Before that, LeMieux was chairman of the Broward County Republicans.

LeMieux went on to endorse Mack as the Republican nominee. The primary is set for Aug. 14; the winner will challenge Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in November.

Here are highlights from PolitiFact Florida’s fact-checks of LeMieux. You can look at our LeMieux file to see every fact-check we’ve done concerning him. (You can also check out the Connie Mack file and the Bill Nelson file.)

One thing we can say about LeMieux: He wasn’t afraid to throw punches against his competitors.

His campaign unveiled ads lampooning Mack as "Half Mack," a loser on par with Hollywood bad boy Charlie Sheen.

The ads had some basis in fact, but often they pushed the campaign rhetoric too far.

"Sources show Mack as a resident of California, living with his wife in Palm Springs," said one. Mack’s wife -- Rep. Mary Bono Mack -- is a resident of California. The two say they spend much of their time together in Washington. We found little compelling evidence that Mack is residing in California. We rated this statement Mostly False.

Another claim was that Mack "took seven and a half years to finish college." We looked into Mack’s record and found that he took two years off to work, so he wasn’t in school for a full seven and half years. We rated this one Mostly False.

LeMieux’s campaign charged that Mack's "only real job in the real world" was as " ‘events coordinator’ for Hooters!" Mack did work for a marketing company that owned and operated Hooters, but the company had other restaurants as well. This too received a Mostly False.

Finally, LeMieux’s ads said that Mack "failed to pay his child support." In Mack’s divorce file from his first wife, we only found evidence for one payment that was 12 days late. Being late isn’t the same thing as failing to pay, so we rated this claim False.

LeMieux did train his sights on the incumbent Nelson as well.

In a tweet, LeMieux castigated Nelson and his fellow Democratic senators for not passing a budget: "750 days since Bill Nelson & the Democrats in the Senate passed a budget. How can this be justified?" We found that the number was right when he said it, but there was plenty of blame to go around for both Democrats and Republicans for the fact that the Senate had not passed a budget blueprint. We rated this Half True.

LeMieux also charged Nelson with voting for earmarks. "Nelson voted for billions in wasteful spending earmarks like the Bridge to Nowhere," LeMieux said. Nelson didn’t specifically support the famous Alaska bridge, but he has voted for earmarks. We rated this statement Mostly True.