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Despite antigay campaign smear, McCollum backs Martinez

Despite antigay campaign smear, McCollum backs Martinez

Former U.S. representative Bill McCollum endorsed Florida Republican Senate nominee Mel Martinez on Monday despite being "deeply disturbed" by the antigay tenor of their tough primary battle, which ended two weeks ago. McCollum, who met with Martinez last week, said in a statement that the former U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary apologized to him. "I remain deeply disturbed by the last-minute negative Martinez campaign tactics that grossly misrepresented my views on social issues and appealed to the worst in people," McCollum said. "Clearly, it should have never happened." In the primary race's final week, Martinez's campaign tried to link McCollum to "extremist gays" for supporting a hate-crimes bill. While Martinez soundly defeated McCollum in the primary, the tone of the race raised concern among some Republicans that it could disrupt party unity heading into the fall. But McCollum said he and Martinez "share the same conservative Republican principles" and that their differences are minor compared with those of Democrat Betty Castor. Martinez called the former Orlando-area congressman a "man of character and integrity." "While no two people agree on every issue, Bill McCollum and I share the same dedication to the compassionate conservative agenda of President George W. Bush," he said.

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