Sign-waving is practically a political tradition, but Daniel Webster had a different kind of placard Wednesday. The morning after the election, when most candidates were probably taking a well-deserved rest, Webster woke up bright and early and headed to one of the busiest street corners in his district.
His message was simple: “Thank You.”
On Nov. 2, Webster was elected to represent Florida’s 8th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, beating out incumbent Democrat Alan Grayson by a whopping 18 points. He wanted to thank voters for their support and the privilege to serve.
“There was one corner that we had worked right at the end of the election and it’s the heart of Southwest Orange County, which is a big chunk of our win,” Webster told Battle ‘10.
He picked different areas of the Orlando-area district for Thursday and Saturday mornings, but was nonetheless out with his sign, waving, thanking voters — and sometimes, receiving thanks in return.
“I probably had six or eight people pull in on the corner and then walk over and thank me, or just congratulate me,” Webster said.
Photo by Abby Tyrrell, courtesy the Daniel Webster campaign
“One of the downfalls to the Democrats was the fact that they spent so much time there [in Washington], they had no time for townhall meetings and other things with their constituents. And I think that was the start of them crumbling,” Webster said.
As a state legislator from 1980 to 2008, Webster has had a long career in Florida government. But those that know him describe a man who wasn’t changed by the subversive influence of politics. Webster credits his faith, his family, and the time he spent at home.
“I would come at the last minute, but when I got there, I gave it everything I had. But when the gavel went down for an end of a week or whatever, I immediately left,” Webster said. “The ones I’ve seen that have been sort of pulled into the vortex of the community of Tallahassee or Washington are ones that linger. And so I don’t plan on lingering.”
The time he does spend in D.C., he’ll have his nose to the grindstone, though what form his work takes will depend on the committees he is assigned, he said.
Webster served on transportation and judiciary committees during his time in the Florida legislature, and he said those two committee assignments in the U.S. House stick out to him. In addition, he said he’s interested in the Armed Services Committee. The Rules Committee, too, piques his interest. During Webster’s tenure as speaker of the statehouse, he threw out the rules book and started from scratch with the goal of creating a more efficient and merit-based chamber.
“Wherever I land, I hope I’ll be able to help prioritize spending and eliminate debt,” Webster said.
One of the first orders of business, though, is picking House leadership. Webster said the top two positions seem pretty well set, but that he hasn’t settled on his votes for other slots.
“I’ve been contacted, but I haven’t committed,” Webster said. “I tell them, you know, I have questions for them.”
Most importantly, he said, is how they pledge to lead.
“I do not want to see a power-based system controlled from the top down. I want to a member-based system based in principles at the seat of that — a member-empowered Congress.”
Indeed, Webster’s slogan throughout the campaign was, “Washington is broken.”
What Republicans have, Webster said, isn’t a mandate, but an opportunity to prove that the party can provide principled leadership.
“This was a swing that only two years ago swang the other way. I think there has to be pressure on everybody to perform, if you will,” Webster said.
Freshman legislators may help ensure that GOP leadership stays true to the roots of its conservative and tea-party support, but Webster said the fury of the electorate — as evidenced by the election results — likely speaks for itself.
“I would be surprised if the senior members didn’t get it, too,” Webster said. “I think they got it.”