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Nelson speech: 3 minutes, 14 issues


© St. Petersburg Times, published August 15, 2000

LOS ANGELES -- If you're a U.S. Senate candidate at the Democratic National Convention, you better not be long-winded.

In a three-minute speech Monday, Florida Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson managed to cover 14 campaign issues.

The cornucopia included oil drilling, "meanness in politics," environmental responsibility, schools, fraud against seniors, the national debt, Social Security, Medicare and "powerful special interests."

Nelson's speech did not make prime time -- it was delivered about 7 p.m. Eastern time -- but the fact that he appeared was testament to the importance of the campaign to replace retiring Sen. Connie Mack. Republican Rep. Bill McCollum, who is also seeking the seat, gave a similar rapid-fire speech during his party's convention two weeks ago in Philadelphia.

McCollum covered 14 issues in about the same three minutes, a list that included the budget surplus, the national debt, Social Security, Medicare, missile defense, foreign policy, capital gains taxes and the marriage penalty.

In his speech Monday, Nelson did not mention McCollum by name but he criticized the Longwood Republican for being "out of touch with most Floridians" because of his votes against campaign finance reform and HMO laws.

Nelson also offered a subtle response to McCollum's attacks last weekend that the Democratic insurance commissioner was closely linked with the Clinton-Gore administration.

Unlike many speakers at the Democratic convention who praised Clinton and Gore, Nelson made only a brief mention of Gore. He spoke of courage, values and said he would "honor the people of (Florida) by conducting myself in a manner in which all of you will be proud."

He also said he would address "the meanness in politics today."

"The measure of our character is how we treat each other," he said. "We must restore civility to the public square."

But immediately after the speech, Nelson showed he was still willing to play political hardball.

At a news conference, he fired back against McCollum, calling him "self-righteous" for his work as an impeachment prosecutor of President Clinton.

"I'm going to defend myself," Nelson said. "I'm going to point out the flip-flops in Bill McCollum's record."

- Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

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