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Upfront

Republican challenger William McBride takes on state Rep. Darren Soto

Senate District 14 candidates lean toward caution and constituent ethnicity, at least on the surface

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McBride, on the other hand, doesn't have any such history to speak of. Registering only as a minor blip in 2006 during his failed U.S. Senate primary attempt against media darling Katherine Harris, McBride's stated political philosophies – he did not return calls for this story – come off, at best, unseasoned; at worst, purchased. He would solve budget shortfalls by declining his legislative salary and benefits, he told the Sentinel editorial board. He would "love to wrap his arms around the budget" while bringing "common sense" to Tallahassee. At face value, McBride's machinations are almost charming. He clearly assumes his smiling, television-ready appearance will play well with a 50 percent Hispanic electorate. In reality, McBride stands at odds with his majority Democratic district: He's staunchly pro-life; he's a former public school teacher who presently homeschools; he's a bootstraps Republican standing against social welfare.

Though McBride likes to say he doesn't "know what it's like to take money from special interests," his campaign (in addition to being funded by $200,000 of his own money) is getting assistance from a Tallahassee electioneering organization called, deceptively, "Progressives." Several mailers attacking Soto have carried the "Progressives" disclaimer and are intended to give the appearance that Soto's own party is against him. The group is actually chaired by Alachua County Republican Party chairman William "Stafford" Jones. It's that sort of dishonesty that can actually be insulting to a Hispanic audience, says Soto.

"I don't think there's much of a notion that Will McBride's a regular guy," Soto says. "He's viewed as a very well-known attorney. He regularly wears makeup."

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