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Florida Chamber of Commerce gets on the backtrack bandwagon, endorsing Rick Scott for governor

SCOTT DROPS BY ST. PETERSBURG: Valpak president Jim Sampey, left, gives Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott a tour of the company’s facilities in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

SCOTT DROPS BY ST. PETERSBURG: Valpak president Jim Sampey, left, gives Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott a tour of the company’s facilities in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Chamber of Commerce may have spent millions to defeat him in the primary, but when it comes to the general election contest, it's decided to give some love to Republican Rick Scott.

The chamber endorsed an all-Republican lineup in its November ballot endorsements announced Thursday, supporting both Scott for governor over Democrat Alex Sink and Pam Bondi for attorney general over Democrat Dan Gelber.

The chamber board spent the morning interviewing the candidates in Tampa before announcing its picks.

Scott is the most interesting choice. Since the chamber entered into the endorsement game for the first time this year, it has spent $3 million in the primary, half going to prop up the struggling gubernatorial bid of Attorney General Bill McCollum.

McCollum's political electioneering committee, Florida First Initiative, received a whopping $500,000 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, financing a weeklong statewide television ad blasting Scott for profiting from the "largest Medicare fraud in American history."

McCollum's campaign also benefited from advertising paid for by Freedom First, the electioneering committee operated by state Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, which received $525,000 from the U.S. Chamber and $199,000 from the Florida chamber.

Scott's endorsement is a bit of a slap to Sink, who once served on the chamber's board, has been hailed by its members for her 26 years as a bank executive and had its primary endorsement.

"Rick Scott's 35 years' experience in creating jobs is the type of leadership that Florida's economy needs," said Steve Halverson, chief executive of the Haskell Co. and chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, in a prepared statement. "Rick understands the central role businesses are to the health of our state's economy, and his jobs creation plan will help develop the business climate needed for high-wage, high-skill jobs."

The endorsement mirrors the state's Republican leaders, who have adopted Scott as their candidate after fighting him in the primary. (McCollum, however, has refused to endorse Scott.)

Bondi was less of a surprise. The chamber backed her in the primary over GOP rivals. Thursday's announcement touted her "unshakable pro-business convictions needed to excel as Florida's top law enforcement officer."

Florida Chamber of Commerce gets on the backtrack bandwagon, endorsing Rick Scott for governor 09/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 11:09pm]
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