Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In six weeks, Rick Scott pours nearly $11 million into Florida governor's race

Pity Bill McCollum. Only weeks ago, he was skating effortlessly to the Republican gubernatorial nomination and comfortably leading Democrat Alex Sink in the polls.

Then, faster than you can say multimillionaire, the attorney general's aura of inevitability was shattered by a political neophyte who started spending money like Florida has never seen.

By the end of next week, controversial businessman Rick Scott of Naples will have spent about $11 million on TV and radio ads over six weeks — more than Charlie Crist spent overall in his lavishly funded 2006 primary against Tom Gallagher. Scott is on pace to spend $30 million by the Aug. 24 primary, ensuring at the very least that McCollum will come out of the primary strapped for money and bruised.

"A lot of people are definitely starting to get interested in Rick Scott. People who were saying, 'I'm 100 percent with McCollum,' are now becoming undecided," said Adam D. Smith, a 34-year-old Tampa accountant and Republican activist who likes Scott's outsider message. "The support for Bill McCollum is pretty much on the surface."

As a four-time candidate for statewide office, McCollum is the clear front-runner. The last two polls showed him leading by anywhere from 14 to 22 points.

But Scott is peeling McCollum's support and making a lot of his supporters nervous and resentful.

"The irony of this situation is that without a $300 million bank account, Rick Scott would be laughed out of the Republican executive committee meeting," said Republican consultant Rick Wilson.

Scott, former chief executive of the Columbia/HCA health care company, was ousted amid a federal investigation that resulted in the company paying a record $1.7 billion in fines as part of a settlement over fraudulent health care billing. He has acknowledged he made mistakes and learned from them, but says he personally knew of no wrongdoing.

Palm Beach County Republican chairman Sid Dinerstein, a McCollum supporter, predicted Scott ultimately can't overcome the taint of Medicare fraud.

"This is Florida — we're the Medicare state," Dinerstein said. "I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty: Rick Scott will never be governor of Florida. If he wins the primary, Alex Sink will be the next governor. She ought to be sending him money, not that he needs it."

McCollum tried to ignore Scott for several weeks, before it became clear he posed a serious threat.

"That's the Charlie Crist lesson on Marco Rubio," noted Republican consultant John Wehrung. "Crist waited too long on Rubio, and I think McCollum waited too long on Scott, but they're still within the window. It's not too late."

As of March 31, McCollum had less than $4 million to spend, and since May 21 has spent about $800,000 on TV ads featuring Jeb Bush. Sink's campaign has spent no money on TV advertising.

A shadowy political group tied to McCollum's campaign, Alliance for America's Future, has spent more than $900,000 attacking Scott's Columbia/HCA tenure. The McCollum campaign declined to discuss whether the attorney general will push for disclosure of the Alliance for America's Future funders.

Ironically, Scott's unprecedented spending on TV ads could wind up giving McCollum some help. Under Florida's public campaign system, McCollum is eligible to receive matching money from the state for every dollar Scott spends above $24.9 million. If Scott spends $30 million in the primary, McCollum would receive about $5 million from the state.

Times/Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report. Adam C. Smith can be reached at

In six weeks, Rick Scott pours nearly $11 million into Florida governor's race 05/28/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 28, 2010 11:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. This Tampa Bay Lightning wing rides the newest wave of fan interaction

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There are photos of Lightning fan Shaun Egger as a toddler at center ice at the then-Thunderome, aka Tropicana Field. He's played in the Lightning's high school hockey league for Palm Harbor University. But his closest personal encounter with players had been waving through a crowd after a training camp …

    Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown wears his anti UV glasses as he talks over the headset with a hockey fan while they play against each other on line in an XBOX NHL video game in Brown's game room at his home in south Tampa. The fan chose to be the Washington Capitals and Brown, of course, was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown interacts with fans through video game systems as he streams the games live on Twitch with plans for the proceeds to go to charity.
  2. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans


    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  3. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?


    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  4. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo


    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  5. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies


    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]