Don't call David Brady a "moderate" Republican. No, he prefers "extreme conservative." He's just not quite as extreme as his opponent in the primary, Allen West. Few are.
Brady has never been accused of torturing an Iraqi detainee. He doesn't think it's appropriate to make veiled threats to the Democrat incumbent, Ron Klein. And he would actually consider voting for a bill that had Democrat support.
All qualities that in the Fox News version of the Republican Party, would make Brady a RINO and exclude him from Sarah Palin's ranks of the "good Americans." But Brady's candidacy is a leap of faith that there are conservatives in Florida's 22nd Congressional District made uncomfortable by the Republican Party's militant tone.
And they don't get more militant than West, who may be the perfect foil. "Knowing people in the Republican Party, they're not satisfied by Allen West," says Brady. "He's way too abrasive, way too radical."
"You can't go around making statements about how duly elected officials should be afraid to come out of their house."
That's a reference to remarks West made at a meeting with supporters in Jupiter in April.
"If he was to get to Washington, he would be marginalized," says Brady. "You can't make these kinds of threats and still hope to be successful in the job."
Brady was born and raised in Miami but currently lives in Boca Raton. A politics junkie since a high-school field trip to Washington, D.C., Brady says that holding political office is a "dream" for which he's saved money and -- after a 16-year career as a home builder -- time.
He has never held elected office; his political experience is limited to homeowners' association boards and panels on community development. Asked what compelled him to run for office at this precise time in history, he said that he was troubled by conversations with elderly neighbors who had survived the Great Depression and world wars but who were more terrified by what's happening in America today. Brady says he wants to help ensure a brighter future for his five- and six-year-old daughters.
"Somebody has to do something that isn't completely right-wing or completely left-wing," says Brady.
By the same token, Brady insists that "I am extremely conservative when it comes to governance. I believe in limited regulation. I'm very pro-business. Limited taxation. In my view, your expenditures have to match your revenues."
On the other hand, during his recent debate with West on the Joyce Kaufman show, Brady said he thought that Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan made a "palatable" appointee. Even though Brady supports drilling for oil, he said that the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf was a sign that regulations needed tightening. And Brady declared his desire to bring American troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
So it still seemed hard to get a handle on exactly what kind of politician Brady would be. I asked him if he had any political heroes that would be a model for his style of governing.
"There is not a single person who I think is perfect," he said. Brady admired Barry Goldwater in many respects but says he was put off by Goldwater's opposition to the Civil Rights Act. He admired Ronald Reagan's efforts to end the Cold War and to promote freedom worldwide but was troubled by that administration's "secrecy." And though Brady supported George W. Bush's aggressive stance against terrorism he had major problems with what he called a "lack of fiscal responsibility" in giving a tax cut to wealthy Americans while going on a federal deficit "spending spree."
Brady has staked out a position on Israel that the Jewish population along coastal Broward and Palm Beach figure to appreciate. When I asked him about the raid on the flotilla bound for Gaza, Brady said, "I think Israel has the right to defend itself and to take it upon themselves to board ships that come into Gaza to make sure that there are no weapons aboard."
The extremists in that debate, however, may object to Brady's believe in the need for two-state solution. He acknowledges that it's a distant goal. "I think right now that trying to form a comprehensive peace accord is unrealistic," says Brady. "What I favor is a step-by-step approach, and the first step is to throw everything off the table except the issue of borders. If you can solve that, you don't have these unauthorized settlements and you can solve a number of issues that go along with it."
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Despite being a novice as a campaigner, Brady actually sounds more polished than West, who's running his second campaign and who has made countless appearances on national television and radio. That was evident in the Kaufman debate.
But in the Republican primary West has a huge advantage in fund-raising (he's over $2 million) and in name-recognition. With the primary in August, there isn't much time to build momentum. Brady has yet to even launch his website, planned for June 15.
As the primary gets closer, however, Brady is hoping that Republican voters begin to have second thoughts about voting for a candidate as extreme as West. "I consider myself more level-headed and rational than Mr. West," he says.
Sounds like a slogan that might work for his lawn signs.