Connie Mack campaigns for U.S. Senate in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — Rep. Connie Mack IV isn't completely ignoring his GOP primary. Turns out, he voted early.

"What do you think?" Mack said Friday when a reporter asked who got his vote. "These are the type of crack questions that you get from some of the reporters."

Mack's comments came during a visit to Sayler's Suncoast Water, a Pinellas Park business that Mack used as a backdrop to try to link Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to President Barack Obama, especially on health care reform. Mack also lambasted Obama for his "you didn't build that" comment regarding small businesses.

Mack, who irked activists by declining invitations to primary debates and has chastised Bill Nelson for focusing on his past instead of issues, said he's now waiting on Nelson to accept debate invitations. Mack refused to give more details.

"Nope, I can't, I can't," he said. "But you can ask Sen. Nelson when he's going to accept those debates."

Later on Twitter, Mack said that he had agreed to an October debate at the University of South Florida. The debate, Mack said, would be hosted by Tampa Bay CBS affiliate 10 News.

Nelson's campaign said it has accepted two fall debates — one hosted by CNN and the Tampa Bay Times, and another proposed by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.

"The schedule will probably permit two," said Nelson campaign manager Pete Mitchell. "That's usually what we've been able to do in the past."

Mack, a Fort Myers Republican, has a significant lead in the polls over his primary contenders.

Former Rep. Dave Weldon, though, has picked up support from social conservatives, including Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Florida Right to Life. Mack loses points with these groups for his support of embryonic stem cell research.

Mack didn't make much of it, saying he felt good about Tuesday's primary.

"I think at the end of the day, the people of the state of Florida, we're going to win the (primary) election, and then we'll all come together and make sure that we can beat Sen. Nelson in November," he said.

Nelson also faces a primary challenge Tuesday from little known Democrat Glenn Burkett.

Katie Sanders can be reached at ksanders@tampabay.com.

Connie Mack campaigns for U.S. Senate in Pinellas Park 08/10/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 11, 2012 12:27am]

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