The Gainesville Sun reports that Republican Bill McCollum is moderating his political views and appealing to the Charlie Crist voters in his run for Florida Governor. The article points out that McCollum's support for including sexual orientation in Hate Crimes laws and the fact that his finance chairman's lead oppositon to Amendment 2 has drawn the ire of arch conservatives including former Christian Coalition leader Dennis Baxley.
God, Guns and Gays: Far Right Slams McCollum as too Moderate on Gay Issues
His finance team chairman is Jonathan Kislak, who last year led a group that unsuccessfully opposed a constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage in the state. McCollum says he disagrees with his friend on that issue.
Baxley cites McCollum's votes on stem cell research and the friendship with Kislak as prime concerns.
"There's people we did battle with and now we're looking at them on our team?" Baxley said. "I think there's just a whole lot of people restless with this. We're supposed to sit on the curb and not talk about God, guns and gays. If our issues aren't going to be dealt with, why are we there?"
And [McCollum] said his support for hate crimes protections for homosexuals, as well as his support for stem cell research, should not preclude tolerance for discussing the issues.
"I believe nobody should single out and invade the civil rights, or persecute someone or harm them or do physical harm to them simply because it's based on sex or race or sexual orientation," McCollum said."At times, I have been seen as not conforming to somebody's personal or some group's standards," he continued. "I do what I think is right. I have my own moral compass and philosophical compass. I am convicted in my beliefs."
In 2004, McCollum lost a hotly contested U.S. Senate primary to Mel Martinez who portrayed McCollum as the "darling of homosexual extremists" for voting for expanded hate crime penalties. Martinez was so over the top that he had to disavow a campaign flyer calling McCollum a servant of the "radical homosexual lobby". Martinez blamed a staffer for creating and circulating the flyer.
Martinez has endorsed McCollum.
Democrat Alex Sink leads in the most recent polls but McCollum could be formidable. He's inherited the Crist campaign team and still has plenty of red meat to throw to the conservative base:
The American Conservative Union gave McCollum a lifetime grade of 89 for his votes on issues like business-friendly legal reform, tax limits and abortion restrictions.
Americans for Tax Reform, one of D.C.'s most influential conservative groups, gave McCollum a lifetime grade of 89.
His time in Tallahassee has not softened those views. Last year, McCollum touted a video warning of the terrorist threat of Islam and sent another video to Crist and the two other Cabinet members claiming that global warming was based on flawed science.
And McCollum battled against restoration of felons' voting rights and expansion of gambling - issues successfully supported by Crist.
cross-posted at Equality Florida's blog: www.eqfl.blogspot.com