Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Oct. 5, 1943, Albany, NY .
Education: S.U.N.Y. Albany, B.S. 1976, Russell Sage Col., M.S. 1984.
Family: Widowed; 3 children.
Elected office: Hernando Cnty. Commissioner, 1990-92; FL Senate, 1992-2002.
Professional Career: Small business owner; Legis. dir., NY Senate, 1972-90.
The congresswoman from the 5th District is Ginny Brown-Waite, a Republican elected in 2002. She grew up in Albany, N.Y. Her mother was a file clerk, and separated from her abusive husband when she was small. Brown-Waite graduated from State University of New York at Albany and from Russell Sage College. She married a state trooper and worked for two decades as a Republican staffer in the New York state Senate. When her husband retired, the couple moved to Spring Hill, Fla., where Brown-Waite worked as a health care consultant. In 1990, she was elected to the Hernando County Commission. After her successful efforts to block a local mining company’s controversial plan to burn hazardous waste, she was elected to the state Senate in 1992.
|Ginny Brown-Waite (R)||265,186||(61%)||($563,685)|
|John Russell (D)||168,446||(39%)||($37,220)|
|Ginny Brown-Waite (R)||49,134||(80%)|
|Jim King (R)||12,232||(20%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (60%), 2004 (66%), 2002 (48%)
As a member of the Senate congressional redistricting committee, Brown-Waite was well positioned to shape the 5th District boundaries. Republican leaders had asked her to run for the House in 1996, but she didn’t think the district was winnable. In 2002, she helped to draw a district that was, and she gave it a try. In the primary, health care consultant Don Gessner said he was the only “true conservative” and criticized Brown-Waite’s willingness to vote across party lines. She won 58%-42%. In the general election, she faced incumbent Rep. Karen Thurman, a Democrat who had held the seat since 1993. This was one of the most competitive contests in the country. The issue of abortion rights was a key area of disagreement. Both said they supported abortion rights, but Brown-Waite highlighted Thurman’s vote against the partial-birth abortion ban as evidence of Thurman’s fealty to the Democratic party line. Thurman outspent Brown-Waite 2-to-1, but Brown-Waite benefited from a late visit by President Bush and the strong showing of his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who carried every county in the district. Brown-Waite won 48%-46%. This was an election decided by redistricting: Thurman carried the parts of the district she had previously represented, which cast 49% of the votes, by 52%-43%. Brown-Waite carried the new parts of the district, 53%-41%.
In the House, Brown-Waite has a mostly conservative voting record that is toward the center on some economic issues. Although she styled herself as a fiscal hawk demanding spending restraint, she took a different approach on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where she stressed her independence and worked hard to expand veterans’ benefits. The House passed her proposal to reduce long waits for veterans to get medical treatment, and she helped to broker a deal to permit disabled retirees to receive both their pensions and their full disability benefits. When France opposed military action in Iraq, Brown-Waite proposed removing the remains of World War II veterans buried in France. In 2009, Brown-Waite got a promotion to an A-list committee, gaining a seat on the tax-writing Ways and Means panel, where she says she wants to focus on health care and Social Security. With Rep. Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, she launched a pancreatic-cancer initiative in Congress. Brown-Waite’s husband died of pancreatic cancer in 2008.
She takes a hard line on immigration issues. When House Democrats in 2007 removed from a homeland-security spending bill her provision to require cross-checks of employees at nuclear plants with immigrant data banks, she voted against the final version. In 2008, she drew a storm of criticism from Hispanic groups and their Democratic allies after she said that tax-rebate checks from the economic stimulus bill should not go to Puerto Ricans because they are “foreign citizens.” Residents of Puerto Rico have been U.S. citizens since 1917. Brown-Waite blamed the stir on “race hustlers” in Orlando.
While many Republicans elsewhere in Florida and the nation struggled in the past two elections, Brown-Waite was returned to Congress easily.