Daniel Webster (Florida politician)
|Member of the|
U.S. House of Representatives
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2011
|Preceded by||Alan Grayson|
|Constituency||8th district (2011–2013)|
10th district (2013–2017)
11th district (2017–present)
|Member of the Florida Senate|
November 3, 1998 – November 4, 2008
|Preceded by||John Ostalkiewicz|
|Succeeded by||Andy Gardiner|
|Constituency||12th district (1998–2002)|
9th district (2002–2008)
|89th Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives|
November 19, 1996 – November 17, 1998
|Preceded by||Peter Wallace|
|Succeeded by||John Thrasher|
|Member of the|
Florida House of Representatives
November 4, 1980 – November 3, 1998
|Preceded by||John Mica|
|Succeeded by||Randy Johnson|
|Constituency||39th district (1980–1982)|
41st district (1982–1998)
Daniel Alan Webster
April 27, 1949
Charleston, West Virginia, U.S.
|Residence||Winter Garden, Florida, U.S.|
|Education||Georgia Institute of Technology (BS)|
Daniel Alan Webster (born April 27, 1949) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Florida's 11th congressional district since 2017. A member of the Republican Party, he first entered Congress in 2011. He previously represented Florida's 10th congressional district from 2011 to 2017 (numbered as the 8th district during his first term). Prior to his congressional service, he served 28 years in the Florida Legislature.
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. First elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1980 and Florida Senate in 1998, Webster is the longest-serving legislator in the history of the state. He rose to become Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives (1996–1998) and Florida Senate Majority Leader (2006–2008); he left the legislature 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.
Webster was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2010. He has since run three times for Speaker of the House: in January 2015, he received 12 votes; in October 2015, he received 9 votes; in 2017, he received 1 vote. In the 115th United States Congress, Webster sat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Natural Resources Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Early life, education, and business career
Webster was born in Charleston, West Virginia, the son of Mildred Rada (Schoolcraft), a nurse, and Dennis Webster. He was 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.
Florida House of Representatives
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 Democratic 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%. In 1984, he won re-election to a third term against fellow 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.
In 1990, Webster sponsored and supported legislation in Florida introducing the policy of covenant marriage. This would make divorce between even two consenting individuals much harder, except in cases of infidelity.
- House Transportation Committee (Ranking Member)
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 Policy Council Award (2006).
The Florida Department of Transportation Turnpike District Headquarters was named the "Senator Daniel Webster Building" in 2008 and in 2005 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.
In 2007, Webster attached an amendment to a bill for steroid testing of high school athletes that would have created an oversight body for private school athletes separate from the Florida High School Athletic Association. He said the provision was in response to complaints from private schools that had been allegedly singled out for recruiting violations.
In 2008 Webster sponsored SB 2400 in the Florida Senate requiring that all women planning to undergo an abortion receive an ultrasound, but giving them a choice of whether to see the live images of the fetus. He argued that it would give women more medical information prior to receiving an abortion, and said if that changed some women's minds, it would make him happy. Opponents said the measure would be an invasion of privacy. The bill did not pass the Senate at that time, but later became law. He also sponsored a law that would have required minors to notify their legal guardians before receiving an abortion. It has been alleged that Webster does not believe in the right to have an abortion following rape or incest. When questioned by a reporter on the topic, Webster declines to comment. He eventually stated that this was an issue being used to distract from his real issue which was that "Washington is broken." 
- Schiavo case
Webster was a central figure in the Terri Schiavo case which involved a dispute between relatives on whether to remove the feeding tube of an unconscious woman who had been in a persistent vegetative state for years. In March 2005, he introduced SB 804 that would have prohibited such patients from being denied food and water if family members disagreed on the patient's wishes and if the patient had not expressed his wishes in writing when competent. The bill failed to pass the Senate by three votes.
He also chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee.
U.S. House of Representatives
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 criticized Webster's conservative religious views on marriage and abortion 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.
Due to redistricting, Webster ran for reelection in the 10th district. Webster defeated Val Demings, the former Chief of Police of the Orlando Police Department, by a slim 52% to 48% margin to secure re-election.
Webster faced former Navy Chief Petty Officer Mike McKenna, who was a Walt Disney World security officer. McKenna had very limited budget and ran a door-to-door campaign. Webster easily cruised to reelection by a margin of 62% to 38%.
Due to a series of court-ordered re-drawings that made the 10th substantially more Democratic, Webster announced he would instead run in the 11th district. The district's incumbent, fellow Republican Rich Nugent, was retiring. Webster had previously represented much of the redrawn 11th's eastern portion, around Ocala and The Villages. He opted to maintain his residence in Winter Garden, within the borders of the 10th; members of Congress are only required to live in the state they wish to represent. Webster won the Republican primary 60%–40% over Justin Grabelle. He followed up with a 65%–32% victory in the general election over Democrat Dave Koller.
Webster ran for reelection in 2018 for the 11th District. No Republican candidates opposed Webster, thus he advanced to the general election without facing any primary opposition. Webster defeated Democrat Dana Cottrell by the vote of 65%–35%.
Webster is running for reelection in 2020 for the 11th District. No Republican candidates opposed Webster, thus he advanced to the general election without facing any primary opposition. Webster will face Dana Cottrell again, the same candidate he faced in 2018.
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 would 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." In the January 2015 vote for Speaker of the House, Webster received the second most Republican votes.
On September 28, 2015, Webster announced that he was running again for Speaker of the House to replace John Boehner. He received 43 votes in the House GOP Conference. However, most members of the Freedom Caucus who voted for him in conference honored their pledge to support Ryan on the House floor, and Webster received nine votes in the final tally.
Despite not being a candidate in the 2017 speakership election, Webster received one vote, from Thomas Massie of Kentucky.
- Committee on Natural Resources (Vice Ranking Member)
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 in favor of allowing gun owners to carry concealed firearms across state lines where concealed carry is legal. In 2017, Webster voted in favor of the H.J.Res.40, which successfully used the Congressional Review Act to block implementation of an Obama-era Amendment to the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 that was aimed at preventing the mentally-infirm from legally purchasing firearms.
From 2015–2016, Webster accepted $1,000 USD in direct campaign contributions from the NRA's Political Victory Fund. From 2004–2018, Webster has accepted a total of $37,881 from NRA sources. Webster has an "A" rating from the NRA, generally indicating a voting record that supports gun rights.
Webster has a "0" rating from the Human Rights Campaign regarding his voting record on LGBT-related matters. He co-sponsored the First Amendment Defense Act. He does not believe in same-sex marriage.
Webster has a "D" rating from NORML for his voting history regarding cannabis-related causes. He is against veterans having access to medical marijuana if recommended by their Veterans Health Administration doctor and if it is legal for medicinal purposes in their state of residence.
Webster voted in support of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. He believes the current tax code is "punishing taxpayers" and is broken. He says the 2017 act "allows Americans to keep more money in their pockets, ends lobbyist loopholes and special-interest exemptions, and makes everyone play by the same rules." He says "the majority" of his constituents will be "among the biggest winners in the nation," as a result of the new tax policies.
Texas v. Pennsylvania
In December 2020, Webster was one of 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives who signed an amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit filed at the United States Supreme Court contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Joe Biden prevailed over incumbent Donald Trump. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case on the basis that Texas lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge the results of the election held by another state.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that called signing the amicus brief an act of "election subversion." Additionally, Pelosi reprimanded Webster and the other House members who supported the lawsuit: "The 126 Republican Members that signed onto this lawsuit brought dishonor to the House. Instead of upholding their oath to support and defend the Constitution, they chose to subvert the Constitution and undermine public trust in our sacred democratic institutions." New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell, citing section three of the 14th Amendment, called for Pelosi to not seat Webster and the other Republicans who signed the brief supporting the suit. Pascrell argued that "the text of the 14th Amendment expressly forbids Members of Congress from engaging in rebellion against the United States. Trying to overturn a democratic election and install a dictator seems like a pretty clear example of that."
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 and his wife Sandra E. "Sandy" (Jordan) Webster have six grown children. As of 2018, they have seventeen grandchildren.
In May 2014, their son John married Alyssa Bates, daughter of Gil and Kelly Bates. The Bates family stars in the reality show Bringing Up Bates and have been recurring guests on the show 19 Kids and Counting, which depicts the lives of their friends, Jim Bob Duggar and his wife Michelle.
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- U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster will challenge for District 11 congressional seat
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- Congressman Daniel Webster official U.S. House website
- Daniel Webster for Congress
- Daniel Webster at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress