1. Breaking News

Gov. Rick Scott's role in primary draws ire from Republican Senate candidate

Gov. Rick Scott's appearance in television ads in heated Republican primaries for the Florida Senate is not going over well with at least one Republican candidate who ended up winning his race despite Scott having a starring role in commercials for his opponent.

Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, who won a GOP primary for a State Senate District 23 last week, said Scott went too far by showing up in television ads in Sarasota for one of his primary opponents Doug Holder, a former state Representative who touted his alignment on issues with Scott during the campaign. The ads, paid for by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, show Scott at an event in Sarasota in early August calling Holder a "very good supporter" of his agenda.

"It's surprising to see the sitting Republican governor getting involved in any Republican primary, especially for the Florida Senate," Steube said on Thursday, still bothered by the spots.

But a political consultant for Scott denied the governor was involved in the race. Scott did not officially endorse anyone in the contest and the footage of him in the television commercial was taken from a public event, said Melissa Stone, a political consultant to Scott. She said the governor has no authority to prevent anyone from using his likeness in ads taken from public appearances.

Stone said Scott "continues to support all those who support his jobs agenda and looks forward to working with Stuebe in the Senate."

Steube beat out Holder and three other Republican challengers to win the GOP nomination and is now heavily favored to win in November against Democrat Frank Alcock in a district that has more registered Republicans than Democrats.

It's not the only race that the Florida Chamber of Commerce ran ads in a GOP primary that featured Scott. In the Florida Panhandle, the Chamber ran hard hitting spots against State Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola Beach, who was running against fellow state Rep. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze. In the ads a narrator says "Rick Scott can't trust Mike Hill and we can't either." Broxson won that race.

What do Hill and Steube have in common other than being on the wrong end of the ads? Both voted against Scott's top legislative priority during the Legislature's spring session. Scott had requested $250 million from the Legislature to use for a job incentive program that provides tax breaks for companies to relocate or expand in Florida. The framework for that program failed in the House and never was voted on by the Senate.

Steube should not be surprised at the ads, Holder said.

"The Governor and the Chamber had a number one priority and he voted against them," said Holder, who noted he and the governor have been "friends for a long time."

Steube said he never heard directly from the governor before the vote and didn't know his vote against the incentive program would trigger Chamber ads feature the governor backing his primary opponent.

But after the vote in the spring, Steube said he started hearing from Scott allies in Sarasota and Manatee that they were upset with him. Manatee County land developer Carlos Beruff who had donated more than $10,000 to Steube's campaign before the incentive vote, asked for his money back because of the vote (Steube refunded the last of the money in July). Sarasota businessman Jesse Biter, a big advocate of Scott's job incentive fund, also split with Steube. Biter, who Scott put on the Enterprise Florida Board, which helps recruit companies to Florida, also publicly came out in support of Holder and said he has no regrets about doing so even though he may have made a long term enemy with Steube..

"I never regret making the right decision," Biter said.

Biter added that Steube owes the business community an apology for opposing Scott's job creation fund.

Here is the ad the Florida Chamber ran in support of Holder with footage from Scott praising Holder: