Make us your home page

Finalists for Senate, governor jostle, dodge and schmooze at Realtors' forum

ORLANDO — In their first joint appearance on the campaign trail Friday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink challenged Republican Rick Scott to five statewide televised debates and chastised him for a running an overwhelmingly negative primary.

"I didn't hear anything about how we're going to improve our economy, or get people back to work, or what we're going to do to improve our education system," Sink said of the one hourlong debate she saw between Scott and his chief primary election rival, Attorney General Bill McCollum.

"What you will hear from me, is you will hear the things Floridians care about, which is discussing the issues and that are important in our state," she said. "It is important to understand what the choices are but we ought to be able to call out our differences without calling each other names."

But the conference of the politically influential Florida Association of Realtors highlighted how underestimated and unpredictable Scott may be as a candidate.

The controversial former chief of Columbia/HCA hospital chain drew louder applause than Sink in his speech emphasizing deep cuts in government spending and government regulations, and his reception room drew more people than the Democratic chief financial officer did at hers.

"We were shocked at how good Rick Scott was. The others never really told us what they were going to do," said Kathy Brandon, a Republican Realtor from St. Lucie County.

Her friend Christina Fischer had expected to lead a "Republicans for Alex Sink" effort after McCollum lost the nomination, but now she's taking a serious look at Scott.

"He opened my eyes. His business experience is seriously needed," she said.

Scott, a mega-rich Naples businessman who spent at least $50 million of his own money to shock the GOP establishment and beat McCollum, refused to participate in any statewide televised debate during the primary and was noncommittal about what he would do with Sink.

"I clearly believe we ought to debate," said Scott.

Talking to the enthusiastic crowd, Scott said as governor he would eliminate corporate taxes, push down property taxes by about 20 percent and "get rid of every regulation we can."

"We are going to be the state that has fair regulation and has the lowest taxes you can possibly have so that everyone will want to do business here," he said to cheers.

Not everyone was impressed.

"Sure he's going to do that — until he finds out as governor that he just can't do all that," scoffed Thomas Sponaugle, a Republican Venice Realtor who expects to vote for Sink now that Scott is the nominee. "He had a good reception, but I don't think there's any real substance there."

Scott was the biggest unknown at a Realtors' candidate forum that drew every major statewide candidate: Sink and Scott for governor; and independent Charlie Crist, Republican Marco Rubio, and Democrat Kendrick Meek for the Senate.

"I'm running against two good people. I have no complaint about them, but they're tied to their party. I'm not. I'm a free agent — a free agent for Florida," said Crist, who has had a close allegiance with Florida Realtors.

Still, the crowd of roughly 500 cheered Rubio louder than Crist.

None of the candidates appeared at the same time or took questions.

"If we stay on the road we are on right now, this extraordinary country of ours will be diminished, and that's what this election is about," Rubio said.

Meek offered a rambling speech about his middle-class upbringing and track record as a fighter.

Adam Smith can be reached at

Finalists for Senate, governor jostle, dodge and schmooze at Realtors' forum 08/27/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 27, 2010 10:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: Closing Iron Yard coding school hits area tech hard but leaders talk of options


    The coming shutdown this fall of the Iron Yard software coding school in downtown St. Petersburg — announced this month as part of a national closing of all 15 Iron Yard locations — remains a shocking event to a Tampa Bay technology community that dreams big of becoming a major player in the Southeast if not …

    In better days last fall, friends and family of graduates at The Iron Yard, based in the Station House in downtown St. Petersburg, applaud during "Demo Day" when grads of the coding school show off their skills. Despite the local success and strong job placement by the coding school, The Iron Yard is closing all of its 15 locations across the country this summer. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  2. U.S. economy gathers steam in second quarter


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy revved up this spring after a weak start to the year, fueled by strong consumer spending. But the growth spurt still fell short of the optimistic goals President Donald Trump hopes to achieve through tax cuts and regulatory relief.

    A government report released Friday showed economic output picked up in the second quarter. 
[Associated Press file photo]
  3. Founder of Tampa home sharing platform questions Airbnb, NAACP partnership


    TAMPA — A Tampa rival to Airbnb, which was launched because of discrimination complaints on the dominant home sharing platform, has concerns about the new partnership between Airbnb and NAACP announced this week.

    Rohan Gilkes poses for a portrait at his home and business headquarters in Tampa. 

Innclusive, a Tampa-based start-up, is a home-sharing platform that focuses on providing a positive traveling experience for minorities. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  4. Appointments at Port Tampa Bay and Tampa General Medical Group highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Port Tampa Bay announced that Jamal Sowell has been named director of special projects. Sowell, a former member of the U.S.Marine Corps, will support internal, external and special projects, assist the executive team with management oversight and serve as a liaison on a variety of port …

    Port Tampa Bay announced this week that Jamal Sowell has been named director of special projects. [Handout photo]
  5. Drones restrictions coming at Tampa Bay area airports


    Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, according to a press release.

    In this February 2017 file photo, a drone flies in Hanworth Park in west London. Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems,
[John Stillwell/PA via AP, File]