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National Politics

LeMieux lobs unsubstantiated claims at Mack

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 05:35 AM
TAMPA -

In a new attack on his GOP Senate primary opponent, George LeMieux charges — without concrete evidence — that Connie Mack IV doesn't spend much time in Florida and has a "troubling socialite image."

Meanwhile, their endorsement battle continues.

Mack this week announced the endorsement from Bill McCollum, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state attorney general, and an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate and governorship.

LeMieux countered with an endorsement from state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale, LeMieux's home turf.

In their contest for endorsements, Mack has won the backing of more big-name party leaders, including five members of Congress, and the American Conservative Union and its president, Al Cardenas.

Mack campaign spokesman David James promised "another major one this week," and suggestions from the campaign are that it will be a national tea party movement figure.

But the Bogdanoff endorsement is another indication that LeMieux is trying to stay competitive. He has endorsements from 32 state legislators.

LeMieux also hasn't backed off his attacks on Mack's character and lifestyle.

The latest is based on Mack's marriage to U.S. Rep. Mary Bono, of California, widow of the late singer and congressman Sonny Bono. LeMieux questions how much time Mack spends in Florida, as opposed to at Bono's Palm Springs home or the couple's Colorado ski resort condo.

The Web video notes that the couple have occasionally been photographed at red carpet events, and calls on Mack to release travel records to show how much time he spends in Florida or California.

"So where does the Half Mack really live?" says the video, using LeMieux's scornful name for Mack, intended to separate him from his father, former Sen. Connie Mack III.

"He says but he won't prove," the video says. "Republicans are concerned how little time he spends in Florida, and his troubling socialite image."

Mack responds that the issue is false and manufactured.

"I come to Florida on weekends when we're not working in Washington," he said last week. "If they (his opponents) want to have a campaign based on falsehoods and lies, that's their business. But the people of the state of Florida know that this is my home. … I was born and raised here in Florida."

Mack added, "The reality is that I was in California last year maybe 11 days. It's really not an issue other than political opponents trying to create — they're desperate — so they're trying to create an issue that just really doesn't exist."

LeMieux spokeswoman Anna Nix acknowledged the campaign has no solid evidence of the amount of time Mack spends in Florida, but said, "We're not making claims without information. We're asking him for that information. People in Florida do not feel comfortable with the amount of time he spends in Florida. He can prove how much time he spends here by releasing his travel records and calendar."

LeMieux's attacks on Mack have been in videos posted on the Internet, not in the form of expensive, paid television advertising, which the Mack campaign staff says means their effect on the race will be limited.

"This video press release was a move from the Democrat, trial attorney playbook of attacking someone's marriage and again proving that George can't ever talk about the issues or how to defeat Bill Nelson," spokesman James said.

The winner of the primary will face Nelson, the Democratic incumbent senator, in the November election.


wmarch@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7761

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