"Prior to the 2004 Florida senatorial primaries, Martinez's campaign mailed fliers to voters that referred to his Republican opponent, former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, as "the new darling of the homosexual extremists," a reference to McCollum's support for federal hate-crime legislation. After Martinez won the primary, he apologized to McCollum for the smear, blaming it on "a couple of young turks" in his campaign. Miami Herald reporter Michael Putney wrote in a September 22, 2004, article:
''We made mistakes,'' Martinez told me after a news conference on the banks of the Miami River. ''A couple of young turks in my campaign went further than they should have. They didn't even have to do it, for gosh sake, we were ahead at that point. But I'm totally responsible for what happened, and I regret it.'' He added that his smearing of McCollum doesn't accurately reflect ''who I am or what I stand for.''
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