MEL MARTINEZ CONFERENCE - Mitch Perry

08/24/04

With a week to go before the Republican Senate Primary race, there is the possibility that The White House's choice to be the candidate to run for Bob Graham's seat - former Housing Secretary Mel Martinez - could lose next Tuesday.

To do what they can to avert that from happening, The White House announced yesterday that President Bush will personally campaign for Martinez in Miami this Friday.

Also today, a host of prominent national and state conservative activists held a teleconference where they lambasted the front-runner in the race, Bill McCollum, and gave their praise to Martinez.

The 2 big issues that turned off social conservatives is Stem Cell Research and Hate Crime Legislation, both of which McCollum supports or has supported in the past.

Ken Connor is the former president of the Florida Right To Life Committee. He says that when it comes to Stem Cell Research, Bill McCollum has aligned himself with John Kerry (roll tape#1 o.q."first do no harm")

Andrea Sheldon-Lafferty is the Executive Director of the Traditional Values Coalition. She said Bill McCollum lacks integrity - referring specifically to Hate Crimes Legislation in McCollum's last years in Congress in the late 1990's. She says McCollum would always tell her that he would remove himself from co-sponsoring the legislation - but never did so(roll tape#2 o.q."who'se not a man of his word")

And Sheldon-Lafferty said with some pride that her group sent letters to Churches in the fall of 2000 saying McCollum was a liar, which she believes made a difference in his loss to Bill Nelson for the Senate that year.

John Stemberger is Executive Director of Florida Family Focus. He says he's grown up knowing both McCollum and Martinez, and blasted McCollum for the temerity to govern as a centrist once elected to Washington (roll tape#3 o.q."with Mel Martinez")

Michael Bowman is the Executive Director of the group Concerned Women for America . He said his group interviewed Bill McCollum last year as he solicited their support. But he says that when it came to explaining himself on Hate Crime Legislation, McCollum became tangled up in explaining himself (roll tape#4 o.q."please call me back")

That Hate Crimes legislation - which included attacks on Gays as being considered a Hate Crime - was stopped in a Senate Committee and never made it to then President Bill Clinton's Desk. But McCollum's support in the House will NOT be forgotten by the social conservatives.

Ken Connor- from Family Research Council says basically, McCollum's position on these twin social issues fail to pass the Conservative test (roll tape#5 o.q. "mixed at best")

Shannon Gravitte, Press Secretary for Bill McCollum, rejected the remarks .....(roll tape#6 o.q."flatly reject these comments")

The GOP Race takes place a week from today.

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