Tough-talking former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Brian Mast scored a stunning upset Tuesday in the GOP primary for Florida’s “battleground” 18th District.
Mast won the Republican nomination for the open seat by rolling up 38 percent of the vote over five opponents.
The runner-up with 27 percent was Rebecca Negron, Martin County School Board member and wife of incoming State Senate President Joe Negron.
The triumph of Mast, 35 in the district that runs from Fort Pierce to Palm Beach, Fl., was the latest in a string of wins in Republican primary battles for major office this year by first-time candidates who defeated better-funded office-holders who were favored for nomination by the Republican establishment.
Among the “outsiders” who pulled other upsets were:
- Millionaire Trey Hollingsworth, 32, in Indiana’s 9th District, which includes the suburbs of Louisville.
- Retired Marine Lieutenant Gen. Jack Bergman in Michigan’s 1st District, which covers the entire upper peninsula and 16 of the 21 counties in the lower peninsula.
In the Florida race, Mast was about as much an “outsider” as one could be: a double amputee from combat in Afghanistan and a combative campaigner whose platform included scrapping the nuclear agreement with Iran and abolishing the U.S. Department of Education.
Outspent by Negron by a margin of roughly 2-to-1, the decorated veteran’s message attracted the support of many of the district’s “tea party” groups as well as such national conservative fixtures as Citizens United and radio commentator Marc Levin.
At a time when a number of fellow Republican office-seekers have been reluctant to endorse Donald Trump for president, Mast embraced his candidacy enthusiastically in June.
“With anybody, you take the good with the bad,” he told reporters, “You know, if you have an infestation of rats and rodents in your home and you need to call the exterminator, you don’t necessarily care about the personality of the exterminator. You just care that he gets rid of the infestation.”
Like Trump, Mast demonstrated a propensity to speak without restraint about opponents.
In the final week of the campaign, during the taping of a televised Republican candidate debate, the Palm Beach Post reported this eyewitness account: “Brian Mast angrily responded to criticism from fellow Republican Rick Kozell that he had pocketed money from the sugar industry.