Al Gore (search) harshly criticized U.S. Senate candidate Alex Penelas (search), saying his fellow Democrat was "the single most treacherous and dishonest person" he dealt with during the disputed 2000 presidential campaign.
The former presidential candidate's comments came in response to questions from The Miami Herald about Penelas' role in the 2002 election and the current Senate race. The comments were published in the Herald's Sunday editions.
Although a Democrat, Penelas is mayor of a largely Republican county.
Fellow Democrats attacked him for not aggressively supporting Gore during the campaign and especially during the controversial recounts in many counties — including in Miami-Dade — that led to Bush's victory after narrowly winning Florida.
"One of the other candidates in this race became in 2000 the single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with during the campaign anywhere in America," Gore told the newspaper after praising Penelas' opponent, U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch (search).
Penelas is not mentioned by name in the statement. But a Gore aide confirmed Sunday he was not referring to former state education commissioner Betty Castor, considered the only other viable Democratic candidate.
"Not all who claim to have been supportive and loyal truly were," Gore said.
Penelas has long maintained that he supported Gore's campaign.
"I've been a faithful and loyal Democrat for many years. ... I was proud to support Gore," he told The Associated Press. "We delivered Miami-Dade for Al Gore."
Penelas added that if Gore had won his home state of Tennessee, he would be in the White House.
Castor leads Penelas and Deutsch in early polls for the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Graham. The primary is Aug. 31.