ENG: Daniel A. "Dan" Webster (born April 27, 1949) is the Republican U.S. Representative for central Florida's 10th congressional district, serving in Congress since January 3, 2013. In November, 2012 Webster defeated Val Demings, the former Chief of Police of the Orlando Police Department, to secure reelection. Previously, Webster served 28 years in the Florida state legislature. First elected in 1980, he rose up the ranks to become Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, then majority leader of the Florida Senate and chairman of the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee. He retired in 2008 due to term limits.
After receiving his engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology, he worked in the family air conditioning and heating business that he now owns and operates. He has been a resident of Florida since the age of seven and resides in Winter Garden, Florida.
Webster served 28 years in the state legislature in Tallahassee becoming the longest serving legislator in Florida history. During that time, he rose to become Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate majority leader, and left the legislature only after reaching the legal term limits. He ran unopposed in all of his elections for the state legislature except for the first three; 1980, 1982, and 1984.
Early life, education, and business career
Webster was born in Charleston, West Virginia and raised in Orlando, Florida where his family moved when Webster was seven, upon a doctor's recommendation that a change of climate might cure Webster's sinus problems. He is a distant relative of the antebellum politician and orator Daniel Webster.
He attended the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he was student government chaplain from 1970 to 1971 and a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
He graduated in 1971 with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. Upon graduation, Webster's Vietnam war era student deferment expired and he became eligible for conscription into the U.S. military. He was not drafted, however, because he failed the physical exam due to lifelong foot problems which prevent him from standing for long periods of time.
Since college Webster has worked in the family air conditioning and heating business; he presently owns and operates it. Webster lives in Winter Garden, Florida.
Florida House of Representatives - Elections - 1980
Webster first decided to run for the Florida House in 1979 at the age of 30.
He had been working on a project with his church to convert a residential house into a place for Sunday school to be conducted. When the Orange County commissioners rejected the church's request for a zoning exception, Webster investigated and found that the county commission had rejected every zoning exemption request brought before them by a church or religious organization. Seeking to rectify what he thought an injustice, Webster decided to run for public office after finding no politician who shared his displeasure with local and statewide government.
In the Republican primary, Webster ranked first with 38%, but failed to obtain the 50% threshold necessary to avoid a run-off election. In the run-off, he defeated Barbara Owens 54%-46%. In the general election, he defeated Democrat State Representative Henry Swanson 51%-49%, a difference of just 2,070 votes.
The race came down to one precinct, Webster's own Pine Hills, which he won.
After redistricting, he decided to run in the newly redrawn Florida's 41st House District. He won re-election to a second term by defeating Craig Crawford 58%-42%.
He won re-election to a third term against State Representative Dick Batchelor. 54%-46%.
After defeating Batchelor in 1984, he never had another election opponent in the State House of Representatives as he won re-election unopposed each two years thereafter.
Webster was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1980. There, he served as Minority Floor Leader, and then Minority Whip. In 1996, when the Republicans gained a majority in the House, Webster became the first Republican Speaker of the Florida House in 122 years.
He remained Speaker until 1998 when term limits made him ineligible to run for re-election to the state House.
During his tenure as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Webster received recognition and awards from a number of organizations, including the American Heart Association for support of AHA priority issues (1996), the Board of Regents Legislative Award (1995), the Florida Association of State Troopers Leadership Award for Excellence in Legislative Leadership (1996), the Florida Banking Association Award (1995), the Florida Chamber of Commerce Legislator of the Year (1995), the Florida Farm Bureau Legislative Award (1995), the Florida Hotel and Motel Association Special Recognition Award (1995), the Florida League of Cities Quality Floridian (1995), the Florida Medical Association recognition award (1996), and the Republican Party of Florida Statesman of the Year award (1995).
Webster's first bill to become law was the 1985 Home Education Program Act which legalized homeschooling in Florida. He considers it his most significant legislation. He homeschooled his six children, remains a homeschooling advocate, and a member of a non-denominational Christian organization that promotes homeschooling, the Institute in Basic Life Principles While Speaker of the House in 1997, Webster insisted that legislation providing funding to schools must balance the needs of all school districts and not raise any new taxes. He agreed to a school construction plan funded by borrowing up of to 2.5 billion in bonds, though he thought the crowding problem was being exaggerated for political purposes. He also sponsored 1998 legislation to improve and streamline pre-kindergarten education and provide training for parents who would be homeschooling their children.
Florida Senate - Elections
He ran unopposed for the Florida Senate in Florida's 12th and 9th Senate Districts. He served until reaching the term limit in 2008.
In 2002, he unsuccessfully tried for the position of Senate President. From 2006 to 2008, he served as Senate Majority Leader. In 2006, while Majority Leader of the Florida Senate, he received the Florida Family Council Award (2006).
The Florida Department of Transportation Turnpike District Headquarters was named the "Senator Daniel Webster Building" in 2008 and in 2005 Florida State Road 429 was designated the "Daniel Webster Western Beltway". In addition, the largest committee room in the Florida House was named "Speaker Daniel Webster Hall" in his honor in 2008.
U.S. House of Representatives - Elections - 2010
Webster rejected early suggestions by several leaders in the Republican Party of Florida that he run to represent Florida's 8th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, but in April 2010, he changed his mind and entered the race. Webster's name recognition and an endorsement from former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush quickly turned him into the race front-runner. He was further aided by a late endorsement and campaign rally from former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee. On August 24, 2010, Webster defeated six other candidates in the Republican primary winning nomination with forty percent of the vote, while the runner-up received twenty-three percent. Webster was named one of fifty-two "Young Guns" of the National Republican Congressional Committee's Young Guns Program, those the Republican Party viewed as serious contenders in their races.
The campaign featured ads by opponent Grayson that attacked Webster's conservative religious views on marriage and abortion and as well as attack ads against Grayson that were financed by Americans for Prosperity and the 60-Plus Association.
On November 2, 2010, Webster won the seat by a 56% to 38% margin. Three other candidates were on the ballot: Independent George Metcalfe, Florida Whig Party candidate Steve Gerritzen, and Peg Dunmire of the Florida TEA Party.
Webster defeated Val Demings, the former Chief of Police of the Orlando Police Department, to secure reelection.
Webster's main platform in the 2010 election was a call for smaller, streamlined government, spending cuts, budget roll backs, and tax cuts. He also said he will increase the protection of personal rights and encourage financial responsibility in the federal government. Webster predicted that if Republicans took back Congress in November, "we would have the opportunity for turning this country around."
2004 U.S. Senate election
Webster briefly ran for the United States Senate in 2004 when he attempted to collect the 93,000 signatures necessary to place his name on the ballot without paying the filing fee. Webster claimed that he sought to be the first Senate candidate to ever qualify using this method as both a symbolic gesture and a way to build an early network of voters. Webster eventually qualified by paying the fee instead, and later dropped out of the race.
When Mel Martinez resigned from the United States Senate, it fell upon Governor Charlie Crist to name a replacement to finish out his Senate term. Webster was floated early on as one of seven potential candidates for the position. In the end, George LeMieux was selected for the position.
Webster is a Southern Baptist and attends First Baptist Church of Central Florida. He is on the University of Central Florida board of trustees. He is married and has six children and five grandchildren.
January 24, 2013