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Scott announces candidacy in April, pours own money into campaign


Published:   |   Updated: May 2, 2013 at 04:49 PM

What can $26 million of relentless negative advertising and an anti-incumbent sentiment do for an "outsider" candidate who started running for office only about four months ago?

A meteoric lead in the polls, as it appears for former health care executive Rick Scott, 57, and Republican gubernatorial candidate, who is taking on 30-year politician Bill McCollum and the presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee until not too long ago.

Scott, who reportedly has poured $26 million of his own money into his campaign to defeat McCollum, 66, who is also the state attorney general, has taken a double-digit lead in that race, according to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted July 16-18.

The July Quinnipiac University poll between the two Republican candidates also puts Scott in the lead. He's leading 43 percent to McCollum's 32 percent, among likely primary voters. Those results represent just a slight shift from June when Quinnipiac showed Scott leading 44 to 31 percent.

The third candidate in the race is Mike McCalister, a retired colonel and university professor of graduate business, agri-business, healthcare and community service, and author of the book, "Right Future for Florida," which recognizes that without upgrading our education system we cannot compete globally.

McCalister's campaign has been completely overshadowed by Scott and McCollum, whose own election duelings have been thin on the issues and thick on controversy and negative attacks, even as the state grapples with record unemployment and plummeting revenues.

McCollum spent 20 years in Congress and has been Florida's attorney general since 2006. He was born and raised in Brooksville, Hernando County. While in Congress, he was one of 15 members to serve on a House committee investigating the Iran-Contra scandal. From 1998 to 1999, he was also a House manager looking into Bill Clinton's impeachment.

Being a career politician has made him the target of Scott's attacks on how longtime lawmakers have done nothing to jumpstart the economy but businessmen like him know how to meet payroll and balance budgets because that's their bread and butter.

Attacks against Scott have constantly brought up how in the 1990s, the hospital corporation Scott headed paid $1.7 billion in fines and settlements on federal charges of criminal Medicare fraud, the largest such fine in history. Scott had helped form the company and was apparently ousted from it after the scandal took place.

A charismatic man, who speaks in a clipped, pithy style, the self-made millionaire has avoided media interviews and has been secretive about his checkered career.

Since announcing his candidacy, he has consistently preached an orthodox GOP message on tax cuts, limited government and social issues.

His campaign platform, rolled out not too long ago, is called the 7-7-7 Plan: Seven steps to create 700,000 jobs in seven years.

Scott wants to reduce government spending, enact regulatory reform, create more jobs, invest in universities and phase out the business income tax, among others.

The same issues figure in McCollum and McCallister's campaign platform.

McCollum's "roadmap" outlines that he wants to provide tax relief, embark on regulatory and litigation reform, cut property taxes and improve Florida's education, transportation, water and energy infrastructure.

To foster growth, McCollum wants to provide "significant" tax relief to make Florida more competitive for attracting and retaining businesses, freeze property taxes for two years and put a cap on local government spending.

McCalister wants to upgrade the state's education system to make students more competitive globally and better integrated in the workforce, increase exports, lower taxes and make government smaller.

"My objective is to bring a high level of public awareness, enthusiasm and insight into the serious issues facing Floridians and all Americans today," he said. "These issues include the complexities and realties of the global environment and economy, the impact they are having on Florida and the nation, and the role of education in our future success."

On issues such as immigration and health care reform, McCollum and Scott follow the standard GOP line.

Both McCollum and Scott oppose the national health care reform that was signed into law under President Barack Obama.

As attorney general, McCollum sued the federal government, claiming the health care reform bill is unconstitutional.

He also toughened up his stance against illegal immigration, throwing his support behind Arizona's recently passed immigration law, after Scott did.

A federal judge has put on hold provisions that would require police to check immigration status if they stop someone while enforcing other laws, allow for warrantless arrests of suspected illegal immigrants and criminalize the failure of immigrants to carry registration papers.

McCalister did not respond by deadline when asked his viewpoints on the two topics.


The Highlands Today newsroom can be reached at 863-386-5801 or highlandstoday@highlandstoday.com

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