ORLANDO — Republican candidate for governor Bill McCollum got the stage to himself on Wednesday at what was supposed to be a third televised debate with opponent Rick Scott, who opted out.
Front-runner Scott said organizers couldn't meet his demands of a different kind of forum. The event, which was taped to air later in most Florida TV markets, went on with McCollum taking questions from journalists for a half-hour.
"I'm running on my record, and Mr. Scott seems to be running away from his," McCollum said.
Scott, a wealthy former hospital corporation chief executive, went to Jacksonville, where he bought lunch for about 50 people who listened to him talk about his plan to create jobs and reduce the size of state government. Asked why he passed up another chance to face off with McCollum, Scott said, "They scheduled the debate without asking us."
McCollum also said that as governor he would propose a law tying teacher pay to performance similar to the one vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist earlier this year. He said it would include standards for merit pay, phase out teacher tenure and provide more school choice. He warned of tough budget times ahead for schools, saying that federal stimulus funds that saved some teacher jobs this fall are just "a finger in the dike for the moment."
McCollum, 66, was the presumptive GOP nominee until Scott unexpectedly jumped in the race. Scott, 57, overtook McCollum in the polls, spending more than $25 million of his own money on the campaign.