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    Gore returns to Sarasota to work, prepare

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    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 1, 2000

    SARASOTA -- Vice President Al Gore arrived here Saturday night dressed for vacation but prepared to work.

    Gore, relaxed and wearing an open-collar tan sport shirt and green slacks, was greeted by about 2,000 cheering supporters at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and described the area as the perfect place to prepare for Tuesday night's debate with George W. Bush.

    "I love coming here," he told the crowd, "and I'm looking forward to digging in to prepare for this debate."

    While Bush is preparing at his isolated ranch in Crawford, Texas, Gore opted to return to the Mote Marine Laboratory on Longboat Key. It is the same site he used four years ago to study for his vice presidential debate with Jack Kemp in St. Petersburg.

    By spending the next two days in Florida, Gore gets more exposure in a high-profile swing state. Polls indicate the state, which Bush was expected to win, is up for grabs and Gore is stepping up his efforts here.

    Kindra Obermeier, a 35-year-old postal worker from Venice who was videotaping the rally, said she did not expect Gore to be this competitive in Florida.

    "Now I think people are just understanding that he's just a better choice than Bush," she said, citing Gore's proposals for education and the environment.

    At the airport, Gore recited some of his priorities: reducing the federal debt, providing a prescription drug benefit for seniors, protecting abortion rights, spending more on public education and raising the minimum wage.

    "Who . . . wants to make a change now?" asked Nina Hess, 82, a Sarasota Democrat who believes Gore is the best choice to keep the economy strong.

    Gore said he is asking voters to look toward the future and does not view a vote for him as a reward for past performance.

    "I think pollution is another form of debt," he said as he touched on the environment. "We should no more saddle our kids with the burden of cleaning up our pollution than we should saddle them with paying off our debt."

    Gore was briefly interrupted by supporters of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader who chanted, "Let Nader debate." Nader, Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, and other third-party candidates were not invited to participate.

    Over the next two days, Gore will stay at the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort on Longboat Key. He will meet with about a dozen voters he recruited from across the country, including Joyce E. Martin of Clearwater, and may run through a mock debate. On Monday, the vice president is expected to host a forum on seniors issues.

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