Sandra (Sandy) Adams was a unifying Republican candidate in 2010. She had the support of both the populist Tea Party movement, which praised her status as a Washington outsider and supported her calls to reduce the debt, as well as Florida’s party establishment.1 An experienced state legislator, Adams used her career in law enforcement to work on a number of issues in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her House tenure came to an end after reapportionment pitted her against a 10-term Republican incumbent.
Sandra Kay Daniels was born in Wyandotte, Michigan, on December 14, 1956. Her father Noah Daniels, a career Navy sailor, rose to chief petty officer during World War II. Her mother, Shirley M. Daniels, stayed at home and raised the children. The family frequently moved as her father received new assignments, but in 1964, upon his retirement, the family settled in Florida.2
Adams attended high school in Florida but dropped out at 17 to join the United States Air Force, following her brother’s path into the military. Adams served from 1974 to 1975. In the service, she met and married her first husband with whom she has a daughter, Sonya Michelle.3 Adams eventually escaped her abusive relationship and took their daughter with her. “I realized really soon that my husband had a penchant for drinking,” Adams recalled, “and when he drank he turned very mean, very violent.”4 They later divorced. Adams earned a high-school equivalency degree in 1983 while working and putting her daughter through school. Adams went on to get a BA in 2000 from Columbia College’s satellite campus in Orlando, Florida, majoring in criminal justice administration.5 Adams began working in the Orange County sheriff’s department in Florida in 1985. She met and married a co-worker, Deputy Sheriff Frank Seton, who died in a helicopter accident during a high-speed chase in 1989. Adams married Circuit Judge John H. Adams in 2001, and they have two children: John Jr. and Kathryn.6
In the sheriff ’s office, Adams rose from investigator to deputy sheriff. She eventually became active in victims’ rights organizations and ended her 17-year law-enforcement career when she won a seat as a Republican in the Florida house of representatives.7 She ran as a “no-nonsense conservative,” highlighting her career in law enforcement by portraying herself as “tough on criminals, strong on homeland security issues.” As a state lawmaker, Adams concentrated on criminal justice legislation. She also sponsored bills dealing with the hiring of undocumented immigrants. One of her successful bills required a referendum before Florida could participate in the Affordable Care Act, which Congress created in 2010.8
For her first national political race, Adams entered the 2010 race for a central Florida district represented by Suzanne M. Kosmas. Kosmas was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008 when the Republican incumbent was caught in a corruption scandal, but she remained one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents for 2010. Adams entered the crowded Republican primary where she faced businesspersons Karen Diebel and Craig Miller. Adams promised to shrink the federal government while also supporting funding increases for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which employed a significant number of people in the district. She made headlines when she questioned the constitutionality of the Departments of Education, Energy, and Interior. “They spent a lot of money over the last few years,” she said during the campaign. “Some of that money could have been devoted to the space industry. We need to re-prioritize.” Adams narrowly won the primary with 30 percent of the vote, largely due to the endorsement of the small-government Tea Party movement that had emerged in opposition to the Affordable Care Act.9
Kosmas targeted Adams’s positions as extreme, such as repealing the 17th Amendment (the direct election of senators) or replacing the income tax with a 23-percent sales tax. Adams criticized Kosmas for supporting Democratic health care reforms and reminded voters of her law enforcement career by taking a strong stand on illegal immigration. “I don’t believe in amnesty,” she said. The district elected Adams with 60 percent of the vote.10
Adams’s election came in a wave year for Republicans, who captured the House majority for the 112th Congress (2011–2013). Given Adams’s law-enforcement background, party leaders assigned her to the powerful Judiciary Committee, where she could work on immigration issues. Her other appointment on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee directly benefited her district. She fought to relaunch NASA manned space flights, including a Mars mission. Adams also called NASA’s climate change research a distraction that “undercuts one of NASA’s primary and most important objectives”—manned spaceflight.11
Adams, a former law-enforcement official who survived an abusive first marriage, played a prominent role during the second session when she introduced a bill to renew the Violence Against Women Act for another five years.12 Though the bill passed the House, it languished in the Senate as the two chambers argued over the coverage and various versions of the reauthorization. In the end, the Violence Against Women Act was not reauthorized until the first session of the 113th Congress (2013–2015).
Following the 2010 U.S. Census, Florida’s new congressional district map pitted a record number of incumbents against each other. The state cut Adams’s district in half, and John L. Mica, a 10-term Republican Member who had been Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, chose to run in Adams’s district after his own district was re-drawn. Adams lost to Mica in the GOP primary by a margin of 61 to 39 percent. She retired from the House at the end of the 112th Congress in early 2013.13
1Joshua Miller, “Republicans Expect Ugly Fla. Primary,” 8 May 2012, Roll Call: n.p.
2“Sandra (Sandy) Adams,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, https://bioguide.congress.gov; Almanac of American Politics, 2012 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011): 426; Politics in America, 2012 (Washington, DC: CQ-Roll Call, Inc., 2011): 256; Amanda Robb, “Reinvention: Healing from Abuse and Heading to Congress,” 28 February 2012, More Magazine, http://www.more.com/reinvention-healing-abuseheading-congress (site discontinued); “Success: Noah Daniels Knows the Key to Greyhounds,” 8 February 1981, The Tuscaloosa News: 21.
3“Texas Birth Index, 1903–1997,” accessed 12 April 2012, ancestry.com.
4“Adams Discusses VAWA and ‘War on Women’ on CNN’s ‘The Situation Room,’” official website of Representative Sandy Adams, press release, 15 May 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20120915230130/http://sandyadams.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=295543.
5“Sandra (Sandy) Adams,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; Almanac of American Politics, 2012: 426; Politics in America, 2012: 256.
6Almanac of American Politics, 2012: 426; Politics in America, 2012: 256; “Representative Sandra ‘Sandy’ Adams,” Florida house of representatives website, accessed 6 February 2013, http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/details (site discontinued); Robb, “Reinvention.”
7“Sandra (Sandy) Adams,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; Almanac of American Politics, 2012: 426; Politics in America, 2012: 256.
8“Sandra (Sandy) Adams,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; “Biography,” official website of Representative Sandy Adams, 14 October 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20121014030614/http://sandyadams.house.gov/biography/; Almanac of American Politics, 2012: 426; Politics in America, 2012: 256.
9Almanac of American Politics, 2012: 426; Politics in America, 2012: 256.
10Almanac of American Politics, 2012: 426; Politics in America, 2012: 256; Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present.”
11Politics in America, 2012: 256.
12Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, H.R. 4970, 112th Cong. (2012); “Adams, House Republicans, Announce VAWA Reauthorization,” official website of Representative Sandy Adams, press release, 25 April 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20121007122139/http://sandyadams.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=292571; “Reps. Adams, McMorris Rodgers and Noem Stand Up for VAWA,” official website of Representative Sandy Adams, press release, 27 April 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20121007070438/http://sandyadams.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=293153.
13“Sandra (Sandy) Adams,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present”; Miller, “Republicans Expect Ugly Fla. Primary”; Robert Draper, Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012): 205.