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Mack’s office: Time spent in district not an issue

By Staff | Oct 11, 2008

With three weeks to go before the Nov. 4 general election, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack’s opponents — and some residents — say he doesn’t spend enough time in Southwest Florida.

The congressman’s camp, though, says Mack has spent the bulk of his time, when Congress was not in session, in his district during the last six months, and that accusations to the contrary are “silly” political posturing.

His critics disagree.

“It’s important that our local interest is heard, and the only way to do that is to be here,” said state Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, who is looking to unseat Mack.

An e-mail from Jeff Cohen, Mack’s chief of staff, detailing Mack’s schedule since April 1, provides event listings for 40 days his office says the congressman spent in Southwest Florida since April. The e-mail states that 81 days were spent in Washington D.C. while Congress was in session. Approximately 71 days, which include holiday weekends, did not list specific appearances, but much of that time also was spent here in his district, Cohen said by phone Friday.

Of the 192 days in the calendar period reported, Mack spent 81 days in Washington, D.C., 85 in Southwest Florida, and 14 in California. He also took 12 days vacation with his wife to celebrate their one-year anniversary, Cohen said.

Mack married U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-California) in December 2007.

The schedule provided “also doesn’t reflect all of the times when he’s just home in Fort Myers just being a dad,” the e-mail reads, in part.

In another e-mail Cohen states that “in the last six months Connie has been in California with his wife fourteen days. I think he and his wife are allowed to spend a few days of quality time wherever they choose to be without prying eyes.”

At a forum hosted by the Cape Coral Civic Association last month, Saunders accused Mack of spending too much time in his wife’s home state.

Mack, who was in D.C., was not present at the forum.

Saunders, who is running under no party affiliation despite his Republican status in the Florida Senate, said he doubts the veracity of Mack’s itinerary.

“I don’t care what a calendar says, I haven’t seen him here,” Saunders said.

Jeff George, another Mack opponent running under no party affiliation, also said Mack doesn’t spend enough time in his district.

“I think it is one of the major issues with Congressman Mack. When I go around talking to people it’s one of the main complaints I hear,” George said.

Not all of Mack’s opponents think his presence in Southwest Florida, or an alleged lack, is an issue in the campaign.

Democrat Robert Neeld, who ran unsuccessfully against Mack in 2004 and 2006, said Mack’s move from the east coast of Florida in 2004 didn’t preclude voters from electing him.

“Yes, I’m concerned about it, but the majority of voters obviously don’t think it’s an issue,” Neeld said.

He said voters should focus on more important issues.

“The largest single issue is the deficit. The Federal Debt Clock ran out of digits recently,” Neeld said.