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    McCollum, Nelson rout rivals

    By ADAM C. SMITH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2000


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    Complete election coverage is one click away

    The race to succeed Connie Mack in the U.S. Senate is now officially set, as Republican Bill McCollum and Democrat Bill Nelson effortlessly dispatched their virtually invisible primary opponents Tuesday.

    The party primaries were barely a formality anyway, since the little-known challengers had so little money, exposure and support that they never made ripples in public opinion polls. Their own parties acted as if Republican Hamilton Bartlett and Democrats Newall Daughtrey and David Higginbottom didn't exist, as did Nelson, McCollum and most of the media.

    So the practical result of the Senate primaries is that McCollum and Nelson will simply step up what they've already been doing: waging increasingly testy campaigns against each other. It is shaping up to be a tight, expensive and potentially nasty race.

    "He starts out kind of slow, and then he gets highly, highly negative. I'm expecting that," Nelson said, refering to McCollum's media consultant, Arthur Finkelstein. "I will respond. I won't be mean, but I will be tough."

    McCollum, a 20-year congressman from the Orlando area, has begun airing television ads that tout his support for education, a strong national defense, preserving Social Security and fighting tax increases.

    McCollum regularly paints Nelson as a flip-flopper and someone who doesn't stand on core values. His new TV ads don't mention Nelson, but instead seek to introduce McCollum to a state where he is largely unfamiliar outside his congressional district.

    "It's going to be a positive campaign," McCollum said. Nelson, Florida's insurance commissioner and a former congressman, is campaigning as a consumer advocate who will stand up to powerful interests. Nelson and McCollum will face several independent and minor party candidates in November, the most prominent of whom is state Rep. Willie Logan.

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