July 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm
By Jonathan Mattise Treasure Coast Newspapers
PALM CITY — Jim Horn spent his career concocting nutritional products and racing and selling powerboats, but even these days on his 10-acre Palm City horse ranch, life hasn’t slowed much.
He has four kids running around — each 10 or younger — three dogs, five chickens, two horses named Sgt. Stryker and Snowflake, and a couple of turkeys and hamsters. He’s still doing consulting work for small- and medium-sized companies with a focus on pay-per-click online marketing.
He also has been prepping to take another stab at representing the Treasure Coast in Congress.
After losing to U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney in the 2010 general election, the 57-year-old New York native is running again as a moderate option on the three-candidate Democratic ticket. He has never held political office and touts himself as a family man and a job creator.
He’s also pledged that he’s a local who won’t uproot for political opportunity in a race featuring two big-money out-of-towners who relocated to run.
Horn has received about $5,000 from supporters through March, but he’s also fueling his campaign through $175,000 he loaned himself. The contest features more than $12 million raised between Broward County transplants Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West and Democrat Patrick Murphy, and Horn said he’s been largely locked out of contribution money.
Horn lately has come out swinging against Murphy, the national Democratic Party choice to potentially face West. In a mailer, Horn claims Murphy has “no serious business experience, accomplishments, inventions, military, government or legislative experience.” He also calls Murphy’s family “Miami Political Bosses” for contributing thousands to the campaign and to Democratic National Committee Chair U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has provided national support for Murphy.
Horn has laundry lists of proposed federal reforms on his website. But he said he’s realistic about what a freshman congressman can achieve. So if he makes it to Washington, he’ll primarily push to bring in economic development programs and projects locally, and fight for environmental causes such as the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
“I live here. I come home here,” Horn said. “I shake your hand, your wife’s hand, your neighbor’s hand. That’s what we’re missing now in America is that each of our districts need to be strong for themselves. The Treasure Coast needs a representative that’s from here.”
A 2010 SURPRISE
Horn called himself a “traditional values” Democrat when he ran for Congress in 2010. He favors gun ownership rights, pro-life stances and congressional term limits. He prefers caps on campaign spending and supports business tax incentives. He likes the idea of universal access to quality, affordable health care as long as people aren’t required to buy it, and it doesn’t result in higher taxes and more government spending. He also supports a stronger work visa program to address illegal immigration.
In 2010, Horn surprised some party faithful by pulling off a win against Wellington grade schoolteacher Ed Tautiva in the old District 16. He claimed Tautiva was too far left for voters in the district spanning from St. Lucie and Martin counties west to Charlotte County.
But he lost by a big margin to U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, in the November election. In a season where the national tea party wave let Republicans take back the U.S. House, Horn saw it as a good sign that he could get 33 percent of the vote.
“I think it was a surprise getting 80,000-some odd votes in a year where Democrats weren’t looked at as being all that competitive,” Horn said.
Horn gave Rooney a “B” grade for his first term in office. And the two have similar views.
“I don’t know why (Horn’s) running against me. I’ve never met him,” Rooney said in 2010. “All I know about him is what he’s written in the newspaper and on his website. There’s very little in there that I disagree with.”
Horn changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat four days before qualifying ended in 2010.
The only reason he signed up to be a Republican, he said, was he needed to make political contributions when he worked for a fitness company in Utah. Everyone there was a Republican.
“I thought the party moved way too far right for me to be involved,” Horn said.
He also gave $500 to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign. He said he supported Huckabee’s work with the Wounded Warrior program.
But Horn said he’s been a lifelong Democrat and grew up in a Democratic family on eastern Long Island and in Monticello, N.Y.
He volunteered in 1973 to serve in the Vietnam War, but sustained an injury and received an honorable discharge before making it overseas. His oldest son is in his 30s and serves in the Marines.
While attending Stony Brook University in New York, Horn said he started the first Mr. Vitamin health store. He also founded American Body Building Products, a company that makes sports nutrition bars, drinks and supplements.
Horn got into the boating business in the mid-1990s, and started competing in powerboat races while running the Jim Horn Powerboats dealership in Lighthouse Point near Jupiter. When he crashed one of his 140-mph boats in 2000, it ended his racing
After a trip to Europe, Horn decided he wanted to dabble in Italian dining. So he opened Orsini’s Grill in Lighthouse Point before selling the business in 2006.
Horn estimates he’s built 10 factories nationwide and spun off more than 1,000 jobs from his various ventures, and he touts that as a reason he’s the right choice.
“I know how to bring jobs from the real world, not from the political speech,” Horn said.
NOT THE PARTY CHOICE
Local party leaders don’t think Horn is the right guy to take on West.
For St. Lucie County Democratic Executive Committee Chairwoman Celeste Bush, the District 18 money game already started a long time ago and Horn hasn’t held his own.
“This coming fight for (District 18) may top
$10 million and we need a viable fundraiser with a large list of supporters,” Bush said when Horn announced his candidacy. “Democrat Patrick Murphy has proven this ability already. Mr. Horn did not prove viable in 2010 because he only spent $33,000 of the $50,000 he contributed to his own campaign.”
But Horn is concerned at the amount of influence flowing in from out of town through Murphy’s candidacy.
“I’m not going to shut up about how this is
Miami money, party-down politics,” Horn said.
Horn acknowledged that he has a tough matchup with Murphy, and said he would love to go toe-to-toe with West. It’s a long shot, though.
“Battling a guy like Allen would be fun,” Horn said. “He’s a tough guy, and I’m a tough guy. I think I could give him a run.”