JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Christian radio talk show host James Dobson has entered the political fray of the too-close-to-call race for Florida’s open U.S. Senate seat.
In a letter sent to Florida voters, Dobson highlights policy position differences on abortion and “gay marriage” of Democrat Betty Castor and Republican Mel Martinez, the main contenders to replace retiring Sen. Bob Graham. The letter came in the midst of the closing days of the increasingly bitter race which may affect the balance of political power in the U.S. Senate.
Dobson’s letter is sponsored by Focus on the Family Action, the newly organized political action group founded by the evangelical leader this year to allow him to take a more active role in politics and public policy advocacy. Action is a non-tax exempt organization and is separate from Focus on the Family, the tax-exempt nonprofit organization which sponsors Dobson’s radio program heard daily on hundreds of Christian radio stations across the nation.
“For more than 27 years, I have dedicated myself to strengthening families, but never in that time has this institution faced such direct and serious attack,” Dobson writes. “That’s why I’m looking to the good people of Florida for help at this critical time.”
Dobson’s letter contrasts the views of Castor and Martinez on abortion, “gay marriage” and the role of federal judges, urging recipients of the letter to contact the candidates to “… make your voices heard” in the race. Some of those issues also came to the forefront in an Oct. 18 televised debate between the candidates.
Castor is the former president of the University of South Florida who previously served as Florida’s education commissioner and a state senator. Martinez served in President George W. Bush’s cabinet as secretary of Housing and Urban Development and was Orange County chairman.
According to Dobson, Castor “has consistently sought to advance the cause of the abortion industry,” noting that she is endorsed by Emily’s List, the pro-abortion, feminist political organization. Emily’s List has contributed $1.3 million to Castor’s campaign.
Dobson charges that Castor promoted abortion while serving as education commissioner by helping to raise money for Voice for Choice, an organization to elect “abortion advocates,” he wrote.
According to her campaign website, Castor “believes we should minimize the number of abortions,” although she supports women’s “right to choose as set forth in Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy. The website also insists that Castor opposes “late-term abortions, except in cases where the life or health of the mother is threatened.”
During an Oct. 18 debate with Martinez televised across the state and moderated by Tim Russert of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Castor explained her opposition to the recently enacted ban on partial-birth abortions “because it did not protect the life and health of the mother.” Adding that abortion is a “very personal decision,” Castor pledged to “fight to protect Roe v. Wade when I go to the United States Senate.”
Dobson contrasted Castor’s abortion views with those of Martinez who “has made the sanctity of life a cornerstone of his campaign. More importantly, his position is backed up by a lifetime of service to pro-life efforts.” Dobson noted that Martinez and his wife, Kitty, “have personally supported crisis pregnancy centers and raised money for pro-life causes and candidates.”
In the Oct. 18 debate, Russert noted that Martinez opposes abortion “even in case of rape and incest” and asked him who should be prosecuted if abortion was made illegal. Martinez answered, “I would never want to see people prosecuted,” arguing that “we need to educate people and encourage a culture of life in this country.”
Russert asked Castor and Martinez about their views on government funding of embryonic stem cell research. Castor said she “of course” favors the research using the destruction of human embryos, while Martinez said he opposes such research.
The candidates also differed during the debate on parental notification. Asked about Amendment 1, a measure on Florida’s Nov. 2 ballot that would authorize the legislature to enact legislation requiring minors to notify their parents before an abortion, Castor said she supported parental notification, but opposed the amendment. “I will not vote for this particular amendment because” a judicial bypass “is not clearly spelled out,” Castor said.
Martinez chastised Castor for her opposition to Amendment 1, noting that the measure does require a judicial bypass. “I will vote for that amendment. I’m disappointed Ms. Castor doesn’t have the independence from Emily’s List to support something as basic as the parental choice of a parent to be involved in that decision of a minor child,” he said.
In his letter, Dobson also took aim at Castor’s opposition to the federal Marriage Protection Amendment, a constitutional amendment which would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman which was rejected by the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate in votes this year. Castor, according to Dobson, “opposes the one remedy that will protect marriage from redefinition and ensure that every child has the opportunity to have both a mother and a father.”
In contrast to Castor, Dobson said Martinez has “pledged repeatedly” to support the amendment.
In a voter guide published by Orlando Sentinel, Castor said, “I do not support gay marriage, but I oppose changing the U.S. Constitution over this issue.” Martinez told the Sentinel, “I believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. I do not support gay marriage. Because activist judges have interpreted the law in ways that allow the legalization of same-sex marriages, I support a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage.”
Dobson also highlights the candidates’ views on the role of the federal judiciary.
“Mel Martinez has committed to supporting judges who will interpret the law, not make it,” Dobson wrote. “Betty Castor, meanwhile, has been endorsed by Janet Reno, who served as President Clinton’s attorney general and who helped him pick hundreds of liberal judges for federal courts.”
Dobson urges readers to contact the Castor and Martinez campaigns to share their concerns about abortion and “gay marriage.” He also asks for financial support for Focus on the Family Action.
He concluded, “Please don’t let the abortion industry and ‘gay’ rights activists have their way in Florida. Speak up today!”
By James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.