to the Republican National Convention in New York say theyll
unite in support of U.S. Senate primary winner Mel Martinez, even
though his contentious battle with the second place contender,
former Rep. Bill McCollum, deeply split the party.
the former housing secretary under Pres. George W. Bush, defeated
McCollum 45 percent to 31 percent on Tuesday.
to the Florida delegation Thursday morning and is scheduled to
speak to the convention on Thursday night.
a crowded field of seven candidates, Martinez was widely considered
the administration's favorite, though the president never extended
an official endorsement and claimed neutrality throughout the
face the Democratic primary winner, former state education commissioner
and president of the University of South Florida, Betty Castor,
who also emerged from a rough primary race, scoring a landslide
victory over her closest opponent, Rep. Peter Deutsch, 58 percent
to 28 percent.
McCollum for much of the race but closed the gap in the final
weeks, when the contest turned into a battle over who was most
end of the race, the Martinez campaign sent out mailers and ran
television ads that accused McCollum of supporting stem cell research
and gay marriage, unpopular issues with conservatives. Gov. Jeb
Bush stepped into the fray in the final days of the campaign,
successfully pressuring Martinez to pull the plug on the gay marriage
in New York Martinez thanked his supporters and reached out to
those loyal to McCollum.
of all I want to say thank you to all of you who worked on my
campaign, who helped get me there, Martinez said. To those
who had opposed him Martinez said, Welcome aboard, please
help me. I want to reach out to all Republicans in Florida to
make sure were a unified party that were moving forward
in a strong and powerful way to win this Senate seat.
delegates in New York admitted the race had split the party but
said they were ready to close ranks around Martinez.
Republican Chairman Bill Bunting said the race divided his local
GOP committee and even split families.
voted for McCollum first and I was going to vote for Martinez,
but I know Bill McCollum and it was at the last second that I
voted for McCollum, Bunting said. My friend to the
his wife voted for McCollum, he voted for Martinez.
In spite of
the tough primary, however, Bunting said the party in Pasco County
and statewide would lineup behind Martinez.
going to unify and unify strong, weve got to have this seat
Bunting said. Were tired of having two Democratic
Senators down there.
Republican Chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan said she is confident
the McCollum and Martinez camps will make amends and come together
to beat Castor.
it got a little testy there at the end, but I think that comes
up in the heat of the campaign, Jordan said. I suspect
theyll all be meeting over the next few days and well
have a united group behind our nominee Mel Martinez.
U.S. Senate leaders, who descended en masse on the delegations
Wednesday breakfast meeting, implored Florida delegates on both
sides of the race to reconcile in order to help the GOP defeat
obstructionist Senate Democrats ability to hold
up the presidents nominees with filibusters.
hold a narrow 51-48 advantage over Democrats in the Senate. One
independent senator often votes with the Democrats.
Allen of Virginia, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial
Committee and the son of a legendary Washington Redskins football
coach, passed a football back and forth with one of the delegates
after telling the crowd they had just played a tough intra-squad
scrimmage but needed to unite behind Martinez.
Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee told the delegates the election
of Martinez could change the direction of this country
by giving Senate Republicans a super majority.
can stop the obstruction we see everyday, Frist said, citing
Senate Democrats blocking of President Bushs nominee
to the District of Columbias Circuit Court, Miguel Estrada,
with a filibuster. You can put an end to it with the election
of Mel Martinez.
Santorum of Pennsylvania vowed the national Republican Party would
pour resources into the state in order to elect Martinez. He told
the delegates Martinez would be play an integral role in stopping
what he said was a liberal attempt to use the federal judiciary
to rewrite laws and upset the Constitutional balance of power.
group of people will have a greater impact on the history of this
nation, Santorum told the delegates. History will
hold you accountable.
In New York
on Thursday Martinez refused to discuss the negative campaigning
and said he was ready to move forward.
talked about it a lot, Martinez said. I think we can
focus on other issues, were going to move forward, its
going to be an exciting time to talk about the future and to talk
about who I really am and Im not going to be defined by
a day or two of bad news.
that, for the most part, his campaign was a positive one, a tone
he said he will carry into the general election.
a lot of shots and we dished out a couple, Martinez said.
Were going to move forward in a very positive way
thats the way this campaign is going to be run, its
going to be about the issues its going to be a high brow
he would concede no issue to the Democrats and said his campaign
would offer help for the uninsured and plans to improve healthcare.
For his part,
McCollum has said he could not endorse Martinez but urged Republicans
to unite for the good of the party.
Party Chairman Scott Maddox said Martinez attack on McCollum
over gay rights issues represented a radical shift to the right,
which would hurt the Republican nominee in the general election
because Floridians have historically elected moderate candidates.
By Jason Manning, Online NewsHour