Miami-Dade Mayor and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Alex Penelas today called criticism from Al Gore over the weekend, "highly unwarranted".

Penelas was reacting to a devastating comment the former Vice President made over the weekend to the Miami Herald.........Gore called Penelas " ''the single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with'' during the contested 2000 presidential campaign.

Gore's raw comment adds to the vitriol that Penelas fellow South Florida Rival, Fort Lauderdale Congressman Peter Deutsch, initially laid on him at the beginning of the campaign for the Democratic nomination last year - that Penelas' inaction and passivity both before the election and during the 36 day recount, contributed to Gore's defeat in Florida, and thus his chance to be President.

Today, Penelas discussed his thoughts about Al Gore's comments (roll tape#1 o.q."

I don't think says a whole lot")

Gore and Penelas had a falling out after 5-year-old Elián González was rescued at sea on Thanksgiving Day, 1999. Many from Penelas' political base, the heavily Republican, Cuban-American community, were enraged when federal agents raided the Little Havana home where Elián was staying with relatives and sent him back to his father in Cuba.

The Miami Herald reported today that Gore supporters knew that strong emotions among Cuban exiles would make it difficult for Penelas to tout the vice president's campaign until he won his own race for Mayor....But the Herald reports that back in October of 2000, one day after his swearing in, Penelas didn't show up at a rally aimed at boosting Hispanic turnout. Later that day, he and his wife went to Spain for 12 days on a trip that was part county business, part vacation.

In a previous interview with WMNF, Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas said he has regrets about his handling of the Elian situation . But he says his support of Gore preceded that saga that gripped Miami in the Winter and Spring of 2000 (roll tape#2 o.q."nothing getting done")

As Mayor Penelas said, Florida Democrats HAVE rallied around Pinellas - no one higher than Florida's Top Democrat, Bob Graham, who told today's Miami Herald, "''People in Florida who know Alex Penelas know he is a quality person and has been a Democrat under difficult circumstances....It is not easy in Miami-Dade County to be a vocal Democrat as a Cuban American."

Graham did not directly address the substance of Gore's remarks, which were e-mailed by a spokesman on Saturday in response to The Miami Herald's inquiry about Penelas' role in the 2000 campaign.

In his comments to the Miami Herald, former Vice President Al Gore also said, " Not all who claim to have been supportive and loyal truly were.'',,,,And, as the campaign moves forward and when appropriate, I will have more to say about this.''....Penelas is in a 3 way battle for the nomination with Peter Deutsch and former USF President Betty Castor.

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