Small crowd greets McCain in Tampa

Published June 21, 2007

TAMPA - Sen. John McCain stopped in Tampa Wednesday on a swing through Florida to drum up support and raise money for his presidential campaign.

The Arizona senator met with a small crowd at a reception whose guest list included Tampa police Chief Steve Hogue, Hillsborough Property Appraiser Rob Turner, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, state Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Lutz, and Plant City Mayor Rick Lott.

Then he headed into a $1, 000-per-plate luncheon at the Tampa Club. The Tampa stop was part of a two-day trip through Florida that included Jacksonville, Palm Beach and Orlando.

"We're focused on making sure we have an effective campaign in Florida, " said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. "Voters in this state have strong feelings about reforming government and making sure we have a strong position in fighting the war on terror."

McCain's $1, 000-a-plate fundraising luncheon wasn't open to the media, but he answered a few questions while being shepherded to his car after the event.

He said Congress is likely to take another look at immigration reform next week.

"It's important for the country, " he said. "We really need to resolve this issue. I understand the emotion associated with it. I just wish we could have a more respectful dialogue about it. I wish we wouldn't question each other's patriotism and work together to work it out."

McCain supports President Bush's plan to strengthen the country's borders and create a system for allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens.

Asked what he thought of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to switch his party status from Republican to unaffiliated, McCain said, "I would imagine he changed his registration for a reason."

McCain said Bloomberg has been "a fine mayor of the city of New York, so he wouldn't be the first mayor in the race."

Janet Zink can be reached at 813 226-3401 or jzink@sptimes.com.