from Pensacola News Journal
If LeRoy Collins Jr. could change one thing as U.S. senator for Florida, it would be to keep classified information from reaching the media's hands.
"I am horrified at the leaks that occur -- especially for the troops in the field -- which aid the terrorists," said the snowy-haired Republican candidate born in Tallahassee.
Collins, accompanied by former Escambia School Superintendent Bill Maloy, spoke with the Pensacola News Journal editorial board on Tuesday.
He's one of four Republican candidates in the Sept. 5 primary. The winner will challenge incumbent Bill Nelson, D-Orlando.
Collins, 71, who stands nearly 6-foot-3, is a statuesque man. He retired as a two-star Navy admiral, then built a successful business in Tampa.
He said he decided to run when it became clear that U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, the best-known and most heavily funded of the Republican candidates, did not have a lot of GOP support.
"When it became public that the Republican party and (Jeb) Bush did not think Katherine Harris could win, there was a vacuum," he said. "I started to fill in that vacuum."
But Collins did not get an official endorsement from the GOP either.
He said Gov. Jeb Bush called him on May 9 and told him that it was widely known his choice as a GOP candidate was Florida House Speaker Allan Bense, and if Bense didn't run, he wouldn't necessarily support anyone else.
The next day Bense decided not to run. Collins filed on May 12.
Although he doesn't have Bush's endorsement, Collins said he's pleased with the endorsements of two established Republican politicians: Jim Smith, former Florida attorney general and secretary of state; and Bob Milligan, former Florida comptroller, an elected position now called chief financial officer.
Here's a snapshot of what Collins said on several key issues:
· Health care: One way to curb skyrocketing health-care costs would be to detect insurance fraud by issuing national identification cards, he said.
Using his wife's recent surgery in which doctors almost operated on the wrong leg, Collins said basics such as medical communication need to improve. Hospital computers are good at data capture, but not at data sharing, he said. "Hospitals need to get better at prescribing the right drugs to the right people -- basic stuff," he said.
· Education: Through aptitude tests, identify those grade-school students who have a proclivity toward math and science and channel them in that direction early on, he said.
As for bringing Escambia County students up to state learning averages, Collins wants to use more retired military residents to substitute teach and volunteer.
Also, he would motivate students by dangling the proverbial carrot.
"You can't just throw money at (the problem)," he said, but "I do think there is a place for incentive payments to students who take the higher-level courses."
· Poverty: The way to solve Escambia County's crippling poverty is for residents to start their own small businesses, he said.
Collins used his own credit-card-processing business as an example. He started the service in 1969 and was employing 65 people within a year. He later sold the business, which today employs about 5,000 people.
"I just think you've got to be aggressive in starting clean business," he said. "Work harder."
· Seniors: Collins used his age to show his support for issues that affect seniors.
"I'm on Social Security. I'm on Medicare. I'm the only candidate that is. I understand."
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