MIAMI, March 22 (UPI) -- Florida opponents of Republican senate candidate Mel Martinez say he used his post as a U.S. Cabinet member for political purposes.
Democrats question whether Martinez used his job as housing secretary to decide whether to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in Florida or do real work, the Orlando Sentinel reported Monday.
The newspaper said Martinez traveled the equivalent of 15 times around the world during his three years as a cabinet member.
"Basically what he was doing was testing the waters for a U.S. Senate run. I was appalled. I think it's a violation of the Hatch Act," said state Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox.
The Hatch Act limits political activities by federal employees.
Maddox and the campaign of former Rep. Bill McCollum, another Republican candidate for the seat, both called for an investigation.
Jennifer Coxe, spokeswoman for the Martinez campaign, said much of the travel was at the request of the White House.
"The secretary's travel was in strict compliance with all the ethical guidelines of cabinet travel," Coxe said. "Secretary Martinez needed to visit HUD sites, ask questions and evaluate their value to the taxpayer."