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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Blessed are the political attacks....



Republican Rick Scott stood before a crowd of thousands at El Rey Jesus in Kendal today and gave a Christianity-infused address to the crowd. But then Scott decided not to turn the other cheek in the bareknuckle Republican governor's race when he tacitly brought up opponent Bill McCollum's shifting position on an immigration crackdown bill. McCollum's stance caught Hispanic leaders by surprise, including the church's pastor, Guillermo Maldonado.

"My opponent came here two or three weeks ago and was very disrespectful," Scott said as an associate pastor, John Laffite translated in Spanish. "He was not honest with your leadership about his beliefs.

“My commitment to you is I will always be respectful of the diversity of this state and of this country and I will always make sure that I will have input from this community when I am governor.”

Scott didn't mention that he, too, favors an Arizona-style immigration law. He didn't say immigration at all. So all the crowd heard was that McCollum was disrespectful and dishonest about his beliefs.

The brief hit on McCollum caught the attorney general's supporters by surprise. Anthony Verdugo, with the Christian Family Coalition, was listening in the crowd and left shortly after Scott spoke. He told reporters that it was "highly inappropriate" to use houses of worship to swipe at political opponents.

But Sweetwater Mayor Manny Marono, a Scott backer, stood by Scott for what happened.

"I dont think he swiped at him. He just made a comment based on what the pastor had told hiim about McCollum. McCollum got up on stage and said one thing and did another."

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:22am]


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