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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rudy in NE Florida: pro-Navy, no varmint hunting



Carolyn_woods_by_julie_truax_in_jac YULEE -- Rudy Giuliani just finished the last stop on his tour, a hunting lodge deep in the woods of Yulee and gun-rights advocates. It followed his promise in Jacksonville to make sure Mayport Navy base gets a new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier if he's president.

"Unlike one of the other candidates for president, I'm not going to tell you I've been hunting varmint all my life," the former New York mayor and U.S. attorney said to laughter in Yulee, a jab at rival Mitt Romney's so-called hunting exploits. "For a good deal of my life, I've been hunting criminals however," said Giuliani, who doesn't hunt game.

The trip went well enough, Giuliani informed reporters afterward, the campaign plans to do its second Florida bus tour again Sunday and Monday in the Panhandle. He didn't talk that small contest in Michigan tonight, which he bypassed.

In Jacksonville, promising a new carrier is gambit the conservative community will cotton to him on defense issues despite his liberal social views on abortion. The Navy mothballed the USS John F. Kennedy last year, pulling 3,000 personnel away from the local economy. But improving the Mayport base to be able to be a homeport a nuclear carrier could cost upwards of $100-million, said retired Adm. Robert Natter, a Giuliani adviser. But Rudy's promise wasn't the endearing moment of the event.

Those came when Giuliani brought parents whose children had been killed in Iraq to the podium.

In front of the Duval County Veterans Memorial wall, speakers including Dave Seamans and Carolyn Woods told of their lost sons. Even a quickly dispatched anti-abortion protestor -- as even Randall Terry cringed in the audience -- didn't dim the moment for long.

"A sniper shot my son," Woods said of Julian Woods, a Navy Hospital Corps petty officer, third class, who died in 2004. Seamans evoked similar memories of Army Pfc. Timothy Seamans, who died in 2005.

It's not certain how many voters were won. Bob Wieland, 55, of Jacksonville, said he was considering Giuliani among other candidates after the Jax event. He liked what he heard from Giuliani, but wanted to hear more from Rudy about domestic issue.

Giuliani, though, ended his tour with a with a lighter speach at the Wild Creek Plantation lodge, where an NRA certificate was displayed on a tabl. The mayor who supported gun control previously explained his current views.

"Whatever your fears or worries, honestly whether I'm president or not, the Constitution protects your rights," he told Safari Club International members.

He left with a hat, lapel pin, badge and car decal  -- and a dead heat in a state he used to lead.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 2:15pm]


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