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Dole adds light touch to Senate slugfest

Bob Dole uses humor to help Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill McCollum.


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 27, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG -- As a new poll showed Florida's U.S. Senate race in a dead heat, Bob Dole rolled into St. Petersburg to tout Republican Bill McCollum, leaving a small crowd of veterans in stitches with cracks about Viagra and McCollum's military service.

[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Bob Dole, right, stops for an interview after his address at a VFW post in St. Petersburg. He spoke in support of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill McCollum, left.
Dole, a World War II Army hero gravely injured in battle, noted that McCollum served active duty as a Navy military lawyer in the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps. "He got hot coffee and clean sheets every night. ... That's nice, Bill. We're glad you survived," Dole told a guffawing crowd at the VFW Post 6827 in St. Petersburg.

The self-effacing former senator and Republican presidential nominee also alluded to his job as Viagra pitchman: "Don't ask me for any samples. I didn't bring any."

Dole brought an unusual dose of humor to a Senate campaign that has been largely defined by negative TV attacks lobbed by McCollum and Democratic Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson. Most voters will have their last opportunity to see the candidates in relatively unscripted setting tonight, as they face off in their final debate.

McCollum, Nelson and unaffiliated candidate Willie Logan will be in Orlando for a live, televised debate featuring videotaped questions put to them by Floridians. The debate will be from 8 to 9 p.m. and aired in Tampa Bay on WTSP-Ch. 10.

Meanwhile, state records obtained Thursday by the St. Petersburg Times indicate that the candidate with the most to gain from the televised debate, long-shot candidate state Rep. Logan, still faces ethics questions surrounding some controversial business practices that surfaced in April. Logan is under investigation by the state Ethics Commission, an official with the state's Legislative Services office notified the Comptroller's Office in late September.

The complaint stems from a June Miami Herald report that in 1998 and 1999 Logan collected $11,000 from the state as rental reimbursement for his legislative office, though he had not actually paid the rent.

An undisclosed person who filed the complaints against Logan with the Comptroller's Office also referred the office to an investigator in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, saying that agency was looking into Logan's reimbursements, too. The Comptroller's Office has forwarded correspondence to the State Attorney's Office, records show.

"From my understanding, there have been a number of inquiries with regard to this ... I'm not commenting regarding any inquiries or investigations," Logan said.

Earlier this summer, the Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint against Logan concerning his acceptance of a $63,000 personal loan from his community development agency. The commission determined that the loan was not used to influence his legislative activities.

Logan has consistently had only single-digit support in statewide polls, but Republican leaders have suggested that many of Logan's supporters would otherwise be backing Nelson.

A Florida Voter poll for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel released Thursday showed Nelson with 43 percent support and McCollum with 40 percent, making it a statistical dead heat. Logan only had 4 percent, but the vast majority of his supporters are Democrats, according to the poll taken between Oct. 17 and Oct. 23.

A CBS News/New York Times poll taken between Oct. 22 and Oct. 24 found Nelson in better shape, winning 42 percent of the vote, compared with 33 percent for McCollum, 7 percent for Logan and 18 percent undecided.

The race to succeed Republican Connie Mack in the Senate is being closely watched nationally as an indicator of the Democratic Party's resurgence in the South. McCollum and Nelson are on target to spend more than $12-million between them on the race, and that doesn't count millions more in unregulated "soft money" contributions the parties will spend on their behalf.

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