Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Scott and McCollum are kick off GOP gubernatorial primary with steel-toed boots

TALLAHASSEE — The battle lines in the GOP primary for governor became sharper Thursday as the candidates made the contest official and escalated a heated race with a new round of nasty attacks.

Rick Scott, a wealthy but untested Naples businessman, made his first major public appearance to describe "the message we're selling," and accused rival Bill McCollum of breaking the law in hiding his connection to a shadowy political group.

"I believe that we will win because our message is the message Floridians want," Scott said, ticking off conservative planks such as limited government and personal freedom as he spoke to an overflow crowd of 250 people at Tallahassee Tiger Bay Club lunch.

McCollum, who is lagging in the polls, went on the attack, telling reporters his rival has a "suspicious background" that makes him unfit to hold office. The Republican attorney general's supporters boldly suggested Scott personally profited from abortions as the CEO of a major hospital chain.

"I'd like to believe that people at the end of the day are going to elect somebody that has been tested," McCollum said, swiping at Scott, who has never run for elective office. "They don't need a rookie up here running this place who doesn't know what Tallahassee is and what state government is really all about."

Asked if he is misjudging an electorate that would rather have a fresh face than a politician with lengthy service like himself, McCollum said Scott needs to know a lot more about Florida.

Later, Scott played into his opponent's hands when he said, "Probably by the end I will know every (Florida) county's name."

The maneuvering is a glimpse of the high-stakes, high-priced television advertising war to come in the 10 weeks before the Aug. 24 primary. Scott has already spent $15 million on statewide advertising and two political groups with ties to McCollum have spent nearly $2.5 million to attack his rival — particularly for his top role at Columbia/HCA amid a federal investigation that resulted in a record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

Scott said he plans to respond the same way by creating his own separate political committee that will allow him to raise unlimited amounts of money.

The race entered its official phase as Scott, 57, and McCollum, 65, filed the necessary paperwork to run for office. Scott still needs to submit a financial disclosure form, which is expected by today's noon deadline.

The ritual made for good theater as Scott faced his toughest questions yet from a throng of more than a dozen reporters. He looked shell-shocked at the sight of a half-dozen TV cameras and tried to escape before an aide made him answer questions for 10 minutes.

Scott said he will bring conservative principles to state budgeting, including a review of state agencies and programs — which is already done annually. Without offering specifics about which programs he thinks are inefficient, Scott said he would create "outcome measurements" for each program and measure their performance.

Sweating in the TV lights, Scott dodged other questions about McCollum's attacks and acknowledged knowing little about some top state issues, such as this year's amendment to abolish the public campaign financing system.

"You guys have a lot of questions," Scott said, turning to staffer for assistance. "This is hard."

He left for the Tiger Bay speech moments before McCollum visited the Division of Elections to make his bid official. McCollum brought a small entourage that included future House Speaker Dean Cannon, former Rep. Dennis Baxley and Eugene Wilkinson, a tea party leader, all of whom vouched for McCollum's conservative credentials.

McCollum distanced himself from the nebulous political groups attacking Scott, but he suggested voters need to hear it.

Scott, who runs a private investment firm, is facing criticism for investing in Emida Technologies, a business that targets the Hispanic remittances market. McCollum said it makes Scott — who is pushing a tougher Arizona-styled immigration law — look like a hypocrite because the practice encourages illegal immigration, even though he offered no proof that the company served this population.

Responding to the attacks for the first time, Scott said money managers at his firm, Richard L. Scott Investments, make the investments and he flatly rejected McCollum's insinuation. "Does a grocery store who sells food to people fuel illegal immigration?" Scott asked rhetorically in an interview later in the day. "The company has a legitimate service. What they do is absolutely legal."

Scott's campaign has criticized McCollum, who was initially hesitant about the Arizona law, for lobbying on behalf of banks and mortgage companies that targeted illegal immigrants.

As for the suggestion he profited from abortions, Scott called McCollum hypocritical. "He questions my commitment and he takes contributions from Planned Parenthood lobbyists and he supports embryonic stem cell research, give me a break," he said.

McCollum also stretched his attacks to assert that the millions Scott is spending on his TV ads is "taxpayer money essentially," because Scott's hospital chain profited from overbilling the federal government for health services.

Scott called it "a desperate politician saying things that don't make any sense."

"Bill McCollum doesn't want to talk about any issues," he added later. "All he does is attack me."

Times/Herald staff writer Lee Logan contributed to this report. John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Scott and McCollum are kick off GOP gubernatorial primary with steel-toed boots 06/17/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 17, 2010 11:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. White nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to speak at the University of Florida tonight and the school is on high alert for tensions. [Associated Press]
  2. Bowen: Park land deal raises Penny for Pasco questions

    Environment

    The Penny for Pasco is unambiguous.

    At least it is supposed to be.

    There was no equivocating in 2004 when Penny for Pasco supporters detailed how the sales tax proceeds would be spent: schools, transportation, public safety and environmental lands. No money for parks. No money for recreation.

    Pasco County is considering a loan from its Environmental Lands Acquisition and Mangement Program to buy land for a park in the Villages of Pasadena Hills in east-central Pasco. Shown here is the Jumping Gully Preserve in Spring Hil, acquired by ELAMP in 2009 and 2011.
[Douglas R. Clifford, Times]
  3. Another Tampa Bay agency loses tax credits worth millions in dispute over application error

    News

    LARGO — Another Tampa Bay housing agency has lost out on a multi-million dollar tax credit award because of problems with its application.

    A duplex in Rainbow Village, a public housing complex in Largo. The Pinellas County Housing Authority is planning to build new affordable-housing in the complex but was recently disqualified from a state tax credit award because of an issue with its application.
  4. Live blog: Many unknowns as Richard Spencer speaks in Gainesville today

    College

    GAINESVILLE — A small army of law enforcement officers, many of them from cities and counties around the state, have converged on the University of Florida in preparation for today's speaking appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer.

    Florida Highway Patrol cruisers jammed the parking lot Wednesday at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center in Gainesville, part of a big show of force by law enforcement ahead of Thursday's appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer. [KATHRYN VARN | Times]
  5. As Clearwater Marine Aquarium expands, it asks the city for help

    Growth

    CLEARWATER — When Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates saw an architect's initial design for the facility's massive expansion project, he told them to start all over.

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium Veterinarian Shelly Marquardt (left), Brian Eversole, Senior Sea Turtle and Aquatic Biologist (middle) and Devon Francke, Supervisor of Sea Turtle Rehab, are about to give a rescued juvenile green sea turtle, suffering from a lot of the Fibropapillomatosis tumors, fluids at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Wednesday afternoon. Eventually when the turtle is healthy enough the tumors will be removed with a laser and after it is rehabilitated it will be released back into the wild.  -  The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is launching a $66 million renovation to expand its facilities to take in injured animals and space to host visitors. The aquarium is asking the city for a $5 million grant Thursday to help in the project. American attitudes toward captive animals are changing. Sea World is slipping after scrutiny on the ethics of captive marine life. But CEO David Yates says CMA is different, continuing its mission of rehab and release, it's goal is to promote education, not exploitation. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times