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Kerry returns to Tampa

At a fundraiser held at the Wyndham Westshore Hotel in Tampa on Tuesday, Sen. John Kerry met with local supporters and fellow politicians to share his views on health care, the economy and the environmental future of the country and particularly the state of Florida.

The 300 attendees at the event included Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson, U.S. Congressman Jim Davis and former USF President Betty Castor, who is running for Graham’s senate seat. Tampa attorney and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride was also in attendance, and South Carolina Sen. John Edwards made a brief appearance but left before the event started.

Kerry talked about the immense connection between people and the environment, using former astronaut Nelson, who had the opportunity to see it firsthand from space as he orbited the planet, as an example.

“When you listen to (Nelson) describe the one-quarter inch atmospheric lining that creates the greenhouse effect by which we live, when you realize how fragile it is and how linked we are to (the environment) and to the future, you see the wonderful connection,” Kerry explained.

At the same time, Kerry criticized President George W. Bush saying he has ignored conservation policies that protect the environment during his term.

“This administration chooses to go … backwards on air quality, backwards on water quality … backwards on enforcement,” Kerry said. “There is less enforcement today and less standards (on environmental policy.)”

Prior to the event, Kerry met with several environmental and political leaders such as former Environmental Protection Agency director Carol Browner, Graham and Nelson at Ballast Point Park in Tampa to discuss issues affecting the environment in an effort to prematurely commemorate Earth Day on Thursday.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Bush camp denies Kerry’s environmental attacks on the administration. A spokesperson for the Bush campaign said the president has a strong environmental record that includes strengthening clean air regulations and cleaning polluted industrial locations, the report said.

Citing the worsening employment figures for Florida, Kerry talked about the current status of the economy and its toll on Florida’s workers.

“Six hundred and thirty thousand manufacturing jobs lost in Florida; 2.8 million citizens of Florida have no health insurance,” Kerry said.

He added that education and the lack of accessibility to college are other issues affecting young people statewide. He mentioned a nationwide 28 percent tuition increase over the last three years as one of the effects of a bad economy.

Kerry said that Bush’s only response to the predicament of today’s economy is his promise to make the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans permanent in seven years.

The trip was Kerry’s second visit to Tampa this year. The Massachusetts senator visited Tampa on March 9 as part of his campaign to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.

Campaign supporters who attended the event were required to pay a $2,000 contribution per plate and military members were asked to pay a $1,000 contribution per plate.

The event was an effort to raise around $500,000, according to a Betty Castor campaign official.

Castor made a stop at the event to show Sen. Kerry her support and shared her thoughts on why he is the best contender for the job as leader of the nation.

“(Kerry) has come through a very rigorous campaign in which a number of candidates had very competitive races,” Castor said. “(Kerry) is the nominee, and I think he has taken the message of alternative to the administration, and I think he’s doing at a good job at it.”