lorida's Seminole and southern Volusia Counties became the unlikely backdrop for an inside-the-Beltway-style battle between a GOP Congressman who has sought to slash the federal bureaucracy and its budget over the past two years and federal employees' unions who have fought him every step of the way.
On election night, the battle went to the tough GOP reformer.
Republican Congressman John Mica was easily reelected to another term representing Florida's heavily conservative 7th District, where Republican voters outnumber Democratic voters by 30,000.
As chairman of the House subcomittee on civil service, Mica has worked vigilantly to uphold the GOP's Contract with America promise of eliminating waste in the federal government. He favors privatization and contracting out as the most effective methods of saving taxpayer money. There are just a few thousand federal employees in Mica's district--one of the reasons the House leadership favored him for the civil service subcomittee's top spot over higher-ranking Connie Morella, R-Md., whose Washington suburban district is home to far more government workers.
Opposed to Mica was the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union that represents 700,000 federal workers. AFGE contributed at least $300,000 to the AFL-CIO's $35-million campaign to defeat House Republicans. President John Sturdivant has waged a war of words with Mica over the the direction of federal reform since Mica took over the civil service subcommittee in 1994. Sturdivant has called Mica "the most dangerous man in history to ever chair a civil service committee or subcommittee in Congress" and decried his "Attila the Hun slash-and-burn attacks" on federal employees.
In response, Mica warned the union that they will "rue the day they ever crossed me." On hearing that AFGE was sending representatives to his district, Mica boasted that they would find little sympathy.
"I think that they would be as welcome in my district as a skunk at a Sunday school picnic," he told the Orlando Sentinel Tribune.
Rusty Roberts, Mica's chief of staff, said the radio ads the union ran in his district were very negative.
"I don't think it had any effect on the voters," Roberts said. "If anything they were probably turned off by it."
Earlier in the campaign, union strategists considered bypassing Mica's race to pursue more winnable races. But some members pushed for supporting George Stuart, Mica's Democratic challenger. AFGE's plans to campaign against Mica ended up as stories in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post after Sturdivant issued a letter to 20,000 AFGE members seeking contributions to the campaign effort to "punish our enemies like Rep. Mica."
Roberts called the AFGE's assertion that Mica has a personal vendetta against federal workers "totally bogus."
AFGE's Communications Director Magda Seymour said its her union's job to take on people like Mica.
"We have to stand up to people who pick on federal employees," Seymour said.