You may not like the candidates for Florida governor, but don't expect alternatives

TALLAHASSEE

Barring a big surprise, one of three people will be Florida's next governor: Bill McCollum, Paula Dockery or Alex Sink.

I know, you're underwhelmed. You want more choices. But this is the field, so you need to study their backgrounds, philosophies and styles.

All three spoke at the annual Associated Press meeting in Tallahassee this week. And all three, Republicans McCollum and Dockery and Democrat Sink …

• Agreed their No. 1 priority is creating jobs.

• Gave offshore oil drilling a big thumbs down.

• Displayed strengths and weaknesses.

McCollum has the earnestness of a Boy Scout and the crisp speaking style of someone who spent 20 years in Congress.

On a day when a Quinnipiac poll gave him a 10-point lead over Sink, the attorney general identified three challenges: property taxes, property insurance and water.

The quality of our schools has to improve dramatically, he said, and Florida needs "litigation reform." That's McCollum-speak for how it's too easy for plaintiffs' lawyers to sue businesses, a perennial priority of business groups.

Pressed for specifics on replenishing our water, McCollum demurred, saying he wanted to lead a conversation that would create a consensus.

The nerdy, bespectacled McCollum, who led the impeachment onslaught against President Bill Clinton, said he was mostly proud of his record in Congress.

Two exceptions were voting for a Reagan tax increase and against the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Sink, the state's chief financial officer, left the security blanket of AP's lectern and walked around, microphone in hand. Her speaking style is improving, but it's still too dry.

It's all about jobs, Sink said, promising to hold herself accountable if she fails to deliver on goals such as improving the high school graduation rate.

She spoke of how Tallahassee pols duck and dodge problems. Her pitch: She's a doer, a business leader, not a "career politician" like McCollum.

Is she for or against Obama's health plan? "We don't know what the plan is now," Sink said. "Come back to me."

Vintage Sink, bobbing and weaving on questions.

She said she learned long ago in business to "know who you're dealing with." That created an opening to ask about her associations with Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, who was backing her candidacy. Did she know who she was dealing with?

"Well, obviously I didn't. He's an admitted con artist," Sink said. "I learned a lesson: Ask more questions."

Dockery, a state senator from Lakeland, spoke last, saying she will give voice to those who have lost faith in government. Hers is a style both knowledgeable and highly critical of the status quo but not mean-spirited.

The underdog in the race, Dockery also said water is a key issue, along with improving ethical standards and exposing questionable deals like the CSX rail purchase.

She agreed she'll have a tough time passing bills this year in the Senate, where the leadership backs McCollum.

"And therein lies the problem," Dockery said, where politics overrides sound policy and deprives Floridians of an open exchange of ideas.

You may not like the candidates for Florida governor, but don't expect alternatives 01/29/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 29, 2010 11:26pm]

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