U.S. Senate primary cheat sheet: candidates and issues

The primaries are upon us, and this one’s big: Democratic Sen. Bob Graham’s vacating after a failed presidential campaign, and someone needs to take his place. The Democratic Party would like to hold onto the seat, and to that end, we have before us three major contenders: Betty Castor, Peter Deutsch and Alex Penelas.

Castor’s resume is fairly impressive; she’s served as chair on the Hillsborough County Commission, been elected to the Florida Senate, served as Florida Education Commissioner and, of course, presided over our fair university, after which she was appointed president of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

Deutsch, too, has a long record of public service. In 1982, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. He was reelected to that post four times, serving until 1992, when he was elected to the U.S. House. He currently holds a seat in the House and serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Penelas’ record of civil servitude isn’t nearly as impressive as his opponents’, but that doesn’t make him unqualified. He served on the Hialeah city council from 1987 to 1990, thereafter becoming Dade County Commissioner, and, on Oct. 1, 1996, became the first mayor of Miami-Dade County. He can also lay claim to an accolade the others can’t even touch: He was named “America’s sexiest politician” by People magazine in 1999.

More important than the candidates’ qualifications, though, are their stances. They all line up rather equally on push-button issues, but there are some slight discrepancies between them. All have said they would have supported the 2002 resolution to use force in Iraq, and Deutsch did so. Penelas qualifies his stance, saying that while he would have supported it at the time, he now feels that troops should be withdrawn. All are in favor of tax cuts, with Castor and Penelas favoring tax cuts for the wealthy and Deutsch favoring tax cuts that “are specifically geared and successfully proven to grow the economy.” All are in favor of decreasing dependency on foreign oil, but then again, who isn’t?

Castor and Penelas again line up on the issue of gay marriages and civil unions, stating that they oppose gay marriages but not civil unions, and both are against amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriages. Deutsch has been silent on the issue of gay marriage but has said he opposes efforts that seek constitutional prohibition of said marriages.

All are pro-choice, but Castor’s assertion that the number of abortions should be decreased has earned her the backing of pro-life special interest group EMILY’s List.

When it comes to matters of immigration, the candidates are somewhat split: Castor asserts that, “We need to make the system of asylum fair and equitable for unique groups like Haitians and Cubans, who are escaping repressive regimes,” but emphasizes border security; Deutsch supports measures that “make it easier for legal residents who serve America honorably in the Armed Forces to become U.S. citizens;” Penelas also decries current immigration laws, saying, “By accepting people who make it to Florida’s shores and turning away those who don’t, we essentially have an immigration policy based on how well one can swim.”

More often than not, though, campaign methods are more telling than professed stances, and with all the mud that’s been slung during this race, it’s a wonder we’ve even heard about the issues. The three candidates, owing something to civility, signed a truce of sorts on Aug. 12 in the form of a pledge authored by Graham and endorsed by fellow Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.

The language of the pledge is fairly clear, stating that by signing, the three agree not to “engage in a campaign that will disparage the character or public service of any other candidate.” This apparently wasn’t straightforward enough for Deutsch, who insisted on adding his own addendum, which reads: “Nothing herein would prohibit candidates raising legitimate differences with the votes, issue positions or judgments made by the other candidates, as if fundamental to the democratic process.” Seem difficult to reconcile? Deutsch spokesman Roy Teicher contends that, “It’s really just a clarification. Arguably it puts it at even a higher standard.”

Deutsch had been hard lining Castor over her actions toward former USF professor Sami al-Arian, seemingly forgetful of the fact that only so much can be done to a tenured professor. It follows, then, that he isn’t aware of the intricacies of higher education, is propagandizing or feels the need to go beyond the limits of the law when deemed necessary — none of which are traits germane to a senator. Penelas at one time similarly harpooned Castor’s judgment, although he has recently rescinded his comments somewhat. No longer calling her decisions into question, he’s now expressing concern that the issue — which, given the circumstances, should be truthfully called a non-issue — could cost her the seat come November. Deutsch has also been critical of some of Castor’s fundraising methods, accusing EMILY’s List of trying to buy the election.

Deutsch has been comparably critical of Penelas, lambasting his role in the 2000 election. Penelas refused to campaign alongside Gore, for which several Democrats have labeled him a traitor. Gore himself called Penelas “the single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with during the campaign anywhere in America.”

Castor only recently stung back, running a commercial in which Deutsch is labeled “ruthless and nasty.” The spot, which began airing Monday, is an odd change of pace for a candidate who’s been taking the high ground when it comes to mudslinging. The Castor campaign contends that the ad doesn’t compromise Castor’s integrity, saying the terms were plucked from newspaper articles.

So for whom should you vote? Well, that’s up to you; but when you go to the ballots Tuesday, remember that people — and that includes fellow senators — are more likely to support a diplomat than a blowhard.
-Brad Bautista

This Tuesday, students will have to make the decision that American adults have the privilege of struggling with every four years: Which candidate deserves their vote? There are several candidates, so how does one know who is qualified and what they support? I have selected some issues that directly effect students on this campus and researched how Florida’s Republican candidates for U.S. Senate stand.

Mel Martinez was born in Cuba, and escaped Castro’s communist regime at age 15 as part of “Operation Peter Pan,” which was responsible for rescuing more than 14,000 Cuban children in the 1960s and ’70s. He lived with foster families for four years until he and his family could reunite in Orlando.

Martinez had only $300 in his pocket. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from Florida State University and began his career in politics from there. He was the first popularly elected Republican to serve as Orange County Chairman in 1998, winning with 60 percent of the vote.

Martinez considers himself a strong advocate of adoption. He and wife Kitty are active in promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion and are so passionate about this topic that Kitty maintains a leadership position in Orlando’s BETA Center, which provides support for pregnant teens and teen mothers so they can earn their GED and go to college.

Martinez believes that life begins at conception and ends at natural death, and supports President George W. Bush’s ban on human cloning. He is also an avid supporter of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which makes those who injure or kill a pregnant woman and her child liable for two federal offenses instead of one.

Martinez’s passion isn’t limited to his pro-life perspective. He “strongly supports our men and women who proudly serve our military,” according to his campaign Web site and will push Congress to do all that it can to ease the burdens that military families face at home. Likewise, he will ensure that military personnel have the necessary resources available to do their job, and will “fight to keep Florida’s 21 military bases open.”

Doug Gallagher is from Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Del. He came to Florida to earn his master’s degree from Florida International University.

In 1974, his brother Dennis passed away from diabetic complications, which has motivated Gallagher to spend the past 30 years serving as president and vice chairman of the board of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, where he has helped to raise more than $80 million dollars for the search for a cure for diabetes. And, because of his work with diabetes, he fully supports stem-cell research and Nancy Reagan’s efforts to expand therapeutic and cord-blood stem-cell research, providing that aborted fetuses aren’t used and no embryos are destroyed.

Gallagher wants to privatize the teaching profession, which would allow educators a higher base salary along with better retirement benefits such as a privatized 401k-like package. He also supports the recent change in Hillsborough County schools that allow families to select the school their children will attend at the kindergarten, sixth- and ninth-grade levels.

Bill McCollum is a former member of the Navy JAG Corps, where he served four years of active duty, with another 20 years as a drilling reservist. Before retiring from the House of Representatives in 2001, McCollum represented Florida in the U.S. Congress for 20 years.

As a retired serviceman, he is concerned that there are fewer troops in 2004 than during Pearl Harbor, with only .74 percent of the nation enlisted. McCollum wants to increase the number of individuals serving our country. He acts as president and chairman of the Healthy Florida Foundation, which was created in 2002 to find solutions to the nation’s health-care system. McCollum is avidly pro-life and pro-family, as displayed in his 20 years as congressman. He is “adamantly opposed to human cloning in any form,” according to his campaign Web site.

McCollum wants to put more computers and better-trained teachers in the classroom to facilitate thorough learning. More importantly, he wants to take the education money out of the Washington bureaucrats’ pockets and put it directly into the classroom.

Larry Klayman is an honors graduate of Duke University and Emory University School of Law and has been a member of the Florida Bar for 27 years.

In 1994, he founded the Judicial Watch, where he acted as Chairman and General Counsel.

A little-known fact about Klayman: He is the only candidate not accepting financial contributions from political action committees that legally bribe candidates. He worked at the International Center for Economic Justice, which endorsed fair trade and protected American jobs.

Klayman is focused on promoting foreign assistance in the War on Terrorism, encouraging cooperation with our international allies such as Israel and Great Britain. He also wants to boost the economy by eliminating the marriage and death taxes.

My pick for the Florida Senate seat is Doug Gallagher. He has expressed how firm in his beliefs he is, and his work for the Diabetes Research Institute reflects this. Gallagher has found the logical middle ground, supporting life-saving studies while protecting embryonic life. He supports a strong military, which our country desperately needs now more than ever, and wants to put the education money where it belongs: with the students.
-Taylor Williams