Washington (CNN) –- Two conservative candidates, a former presidential candidate and photos of bare-chested gay men have now been lumped together in Florida’s Republican primary for governor.
State Attorney General Bill McCollum is locked in an increasingly bitter battle for the GOP nomination against health care executive Rick Scott. McCollum, backed by many in the Republican establishment, has previously run for several statewide offices, including a failed 2004 Senate bid. Scott bills himself as a “conservative outsider.”
Campaigns for both are trading barbs on issues of concern to the Republican primary audience: government bailouts, the economy and illegal immigration.
But the issues of gay rights – and gay dating – have figured their way into the race.
On Thursday, McCollum’s campaign reacted to a memo released by the Scott campaign the day before.
The memo listed what it claimed were “Top 7 “Reasons Conservatives and Republicans aren’t supporting Bill McCollum.” Among them, the memo stated: “McCollum endorsed pro-abortion and pro-homosexual rights candidate Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008 and was a Giuliani campaign leader in Florida.”
The memo was released on the same day that prominent Florida conservative John Stemberger – who opposes abortion rights - endorsed McCollum.
Jennifer Baker, spokeswoman for Scott’s campaign, told CNN it was merely a coincidence that the McCollum endorsement and the Scott campaign’s e-mail calling Giuliani “pro-homosexual rights,” coincided.
Now McCollum’s campaign is pointing out that Scott is an investor in a social networking site that, among other things, features the profiles of gay men.
QuePasa.com bills itself as “one of the world’s largest trilingual Latino Social Networks online” serving users in the U.S., Mexico and Latin America. It features content on entertainment, sports and music.
But as McCollum’s campaign ties Scott to the site, it points out that gays also use the site for dating.
Kristy Campbell, communications director for McCollum, acknowledged to CNN the campaign is pointing out Scott’s ties to QuePasa.com. But Campbell said it was in response to the e-mail from Scott’s campaign.
“The hypocrisy and bizarre desperate attacks against Attorney General McCollum by Rick Scott in this campaign know no bounds,” Campbell told CNN.
Scott’s campaign said it was simply stating facts.
“I don’t know why this is upsetting to Bill McCollum,” Scott spokeswoman Baker said.
As for Scott’s ties to the Latino social network, Baker said the candidate is an investor in several Hispanic businesses including QuePasa.com, which she called the “Spanish Facebook.”
”There’s a lot of desperation from the McCollum campaign,” Baker said, blowing off questions about its e-mail.
Maureen Mitchell, spokeswoman for Giuliani, said in a statement to CNN, "Rudy Giuliani feels that Bill McCollum has served the people of Florida very well over the years and will continue to do so as their Governor. Money and baseless rhetoric can't erode the solid record Bill has accomplished over the years."