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Democrat tweaks foe in race for Senate

A congressman wants Miami-Dade's mayor to waive confidentiality in a federal investigation.

By Associated Press
Published August 7, 2003

ORLANDO - U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch raised the stakes Wednesday in an increasingly fractious race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate by demanding that Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas waive his right to confidentiality in a Federal Elections Commission investigation.

The investigation began after Deutsch filed a complaint with the FEC last month, claiming Penelas accepted $51,000 in illegally coerced donations from a South Florida health care company.

Deutsch, D-Pembroke Pines, wrote Penelas a letter demanding that he waive confidentiality during the investigation. Documents from such investigations generally are not public.

Deutsch had planned to give the letter to Penelas or a representative Wednesday at a candidates forum sponsored by Orange County Democrats. But Penelas didn't attend and didn't send anyone.

Penelas was on vacation in California with his family, said spokesman Ron Sachs.

"The letter is about as meaningful as the bogus complaint to the FEC," Sachs said. "He triggered the process of the complaint ... and Mayor Penelas is going to follow the process."

Both candidates are running for the Democratic nomination to replace Bob Graham, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Other Democrats in the race include former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor of Tampa, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miramar and U.S. Rep. Alan Boyd of Monticello.

Castor and Deutsch were the only candidates who attended the forum. Boyd was with his son in Los Angeles and sent his wife. Hastings was on an overseas trip and sent a cousin.

Castor told the Orange County Democrats that party members must unify behind whoever wins the nomination.

"One of the most important things is for all of us to treat one another in the primary with great respect," Castor said. "If I am not successful, I can guarantee you I will stand with the nominee and our party and work as hard as I can to make sure a Democrat is elected to fill Bob Graham's shoes."

[Last modified August 7, 2003, 01:47:45]

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