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McCollum, Bondi solicit GOP support for federal health care lawsuit

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Bill McCollum and his successor Pam Bondi are urging fellow Republicans throughout the country to join his lawsuit against the federal government over the new federal health care law.

McCollum and Bondi, who will take over on Jan. 4., sent a letter to 13 Republicans who won election this month as attorneys general or governor hoping to shore up support for the lawsuit now working its way through the federal courts.

“Having a majority of the states litigating our constitutional rights is a powerful message,” they wrote.

Oral argument on the case is set for Dec. 16 in Pensacola.

Atwater names transition team, includes former senate Dem leader Lawson

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Jeff Atwater named Thomas F. Petway III as chairman of his transition team as the former senate president readies for his new job as chief financial officer.

Petway, a Jacksonville businessman and major GOP contributor, served on the Florida Board of Governors and is an owner of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars team.

Tucked into a host of Republican big-wigs he tapped for his transition team, Atwater spread a little bipartisan love with his former colleague Al Lawson.

Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat who owns an insurance agency, served as the Senate Democrats’ head honcho while Atwater was president.

See the complete list of Atwater’s transition team after the jump.
(more…)

AG-elect Bondi taps bipartisan AG primary losers for transition team

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi enlisted two losing attorney general primary candidates to her transition team, which will be chaired by former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker,her predecessor Attorney General Bill McCollum and former House Speaker Larry Cretul.

Bondi tapped former state Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Greenacres Democrat who lost his AG bid in the primary to former state Sen. Dan Gelber who lost to Bondi, to serve on her pill mills and prescription drug team.

And Bondi recruited former state Rep. Holly Benson, her one-time opponent in the GOP primary, as one of her Medicaid fraud advisers. Benson formerly served as secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The former Tampa prosecutor also asked her transition team members to sign an ethics pledge that includes a one-year ban on lobbying her office.

Bondi’s full list of transition team appointees follows.

(more…)

First on Guv-elect Scott’s to-do list? Starbucks!

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

It’s no secret Florida’s new governor Rick Scott loves Starbucks.

While traveling throughout the state on a week-long bus tour, Scott’s convoy frequently made unscheduled stops at the coffee chain for quick pick-me-ups for Scott, his wife Ann and their two daughters.

The exuberant Scott surprised caffeine lovers at a Starbucks located a convenient two blocks away from the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina that’s turned into Scott’s post-election HQ for at least a few days.

“Hey look! That’s the guy who’s running for governor!” one of the workers behind the counter said as an exuberant Scott, accompanied by an FDLE agent, bounced into the cafe just a few hours after making his victory speech at the hotel.

Scott ordered his customary Chai tea latte (unsweetened) then posed for pictures with workers but at least one customer was unfazed by the new governor’s appearance.

“Who is that guy?” he asked, barely glancing up from his computer.

The young man, who did not give his name, is from England, and had apparently news about the overnight delay in the outcome of the governor’s election.

Scott will make an announcement about his transition team at the Hilton at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Sink concedes, Scott celebtrates

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Democrat Alex Sink is now conceding the governor’s race to Rick Scott.

After a long night, Scott’s campaign staff and supporters are gathered in a ballroom celebrating Sink’s long-awaited concession speech and anticipating Scott’s arrival.

Late results from Palm Beach County left the state without a clear winner last night, but after most of the returns are in Sink appeared to have at least 30,000 fewer votes than needed to trigger an automatic recount.

Confident Scott: ‘I will be the next great governor’

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

A confident Scott and his wife Ann came on the stage shortly after 2 a.m. – nearly two hours after Alex Sink had gone home – and spoke to about 100 weary stragglers.

“I apologize this has taken so long,” the ever-polite Scott said, adding that he was glad it didn’t rain although it could have without him knowing it when he was sequestered in his suite watching the election returns on television.

“After all the votes are counted..I am absolutely confident I will be the next great governor of the state of Florida,” he said.

Scott said he would have more to say later today

“We know we’re going to win and we look forward to getting this state back to work,” he said, riffing on his trademark “Let’s Get to Work” campaign slogan.

Scott sidestepped a question about his disappointment over not being able to declare victory.

“I had a great speech,” he said, smiling. “I had a great speech. We had great confetti and everything. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

Big lobbyist turnout at high-security Scott fete

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Some of Tallahassee’s most powerful lobbyists crowded into the ballroom at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina for “outsider” GOP gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott’s election night party, including those once bankrolling his primary opponent Bill McCollum’s campaign.

Scott, who campaigned as an “outsider,” defeated the attorney general after a brutal primary campaign, not unlike his general race against Democrat Alex Sink.

Scott’s imposing security staff blocked off hallways at the waterfront marina and hotel and even employees complained about the restrictions. One hotel guest trying to leave the property had to plead with Scott’s bouncers to let him leave without walking around the entire hotel to get to his car.

The movers-and-shakers in attendance included Fred Leonhardt, who was on McCollum’s finance committee, and donors who contributed at least $100,000 to Scott’s campaign.

Others on the A-list getting an early foot in the door with Scott included Ron Book, Billy Rubin, Dave Ramba, Jim Eaton, Pat Malloy, Jennifer Green, and U.S. Sugar’s Robert Coker.

Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos, a handful of other GOP legislators and former RPOF executive director Will McKinley and former RPOF fundraiser are also in the house.

Scott convoy gets flashing blue light escort out of Lee County

Monday, November 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

It might be jumping the gun a bit, but Rick Scott’s convoy got a courtesy sheriff’s escort out of town as the GOP gubernatorial candidate headed across the state to West Palm Beach on the day before the election.

The escort was a benefit of having Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, no relation to the candidate, on your side. The sheriff provided escort without being asked, Scott’s campaign staff said.

The lanky Scott, who said he lost 10 pounds since launching his gubernatorial bid seven months ago, is en route to West Palm Beach for a barbecue lunch where he’ll be joined by U.S. Sen. George LeMieux.

Scott’s wife Ann has also shed some weight on the campaign trail, a switch from most candidates who plump up after visits to umpteen pancake breakfasts and barbecue meals.

When offered a choice of cookies on his campaign bus this weekend, Scott opted for the more decadent chocolate chip than oatmeal raisin.

“Two more days of eating bad,” he joked.

LeMieux joins Scott for some Palm Beach BBQ Monday; Clinton visit includes Sink

Sunday, October 31st, 2010 by Dara Kam

U.S. Sen. George LeMieux will join Rick Scott and running-mate Jennifer Carroll in West Palm Beach for some (more) barbecue at the Park Avenue BBQ and Grille around noon tomorrow.

The GOP gubernatorial candidates will also visit their campaign headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale and a school in Davie before a homecoming party in Naples Monday evening capping Scott’s weeklong tour of the state leading up to Election Day.

Scott’s campaign rented the Cambier Park Bandshell and will have a live band to greet Scott, who moved to Naples seven years ago. Scott and his wife Ann’s pals Wayne and Susan Mullican, who joined the Scott family on the bus tour Sunday, took out a full page ad in the Naples Daily News to advertise the event.

Democratic gubernatorial contender Alex Sink will be onstage with the most sought-after Democrats nationwide tomorrow evening: Former president Bill Clinton, who’ll be in the Sunshine State stumping for pal Kendrick Meek. Clinton’s visit – his twelfth for Meek’s U.S. Senate bid – comes after a shakeup over reports that Clinton tried to persuade Meek to drop out of the U.S. Senate race.

Bob Graham and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will also campaign for Sink in Ft. Myers on Monday, but not only AFTER Scott has already left town.

Scott bus tour day 5: field trips, Jeb!, Haley and tea

Sunday, October 31st, 2010 by Dara Kam

Rick Scott bookended two GOP rock stars between a Tea Party rally and a private screening of the education documentary “Waiting for Superman” on Day 5 of his statewide bus tour as the clock ticks down until Election Day.

Rick Scott and RGA head Gov. Haley Barbourdd


Former Gov. Jeb Bush kicked off the day with a rally for the GOP Cabinet slate and gubernatorial candidate Scott at an airport hangar in Orlando.

“There’s a cloud on our state. I think there’s a lot of pessimism in our state right now. I think we need a can-do leader that lifts the cloud,” Bush said. “I think he’s the right guy for the right time.”

Scott capped off the day-long flyaround on a chartered plane with a rally near Tampa starring Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the head of the National Governor’s Association. (more…)

Chock full o’donuts with Scott

Friday, October 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Ever punctual, Rick Scott’s bus tour was running so ahead of schedule after a donut breakfast that his caravan had plenty of time to make two unscheduled visits to two more diners before making a fourth planned stop in Santa Rosa Beach.

Scott met with several hundred supporters at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Panama City and made brief stops at a Waffle House and Mike’s Diner before meeting with the Ft. Walton Chamber of Commerce in Walton County.

The rail-thin Scott, who looks as though he never ate one of the fried pastries in his life, then stopped for lunch at the Donut Hole in Santa Rosa Beach.

Rick Scott and his mother Esther at the Donut Hole in Santa Rosa Beach (Photo courtesy Rick Scott campaign)

There, Scott’s crackerjack advance team met with a situation that put their planning skills to the test.

News of a hostage situation and police shooting in Pensacola, where Scott was heading, caused some quick recalculation. Local officials have shut down I-10 where Scott’s convoy was scheduled to travel. Check back later to see if the detour caused a delay.

On the road with Scott: boots, black tie and elephants and a ‘former’ Senate prez?

Friday, October 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam


Judging from the decorations, President Obama was more of a trick than a treat at the eighth annual “Black Tie and Blue Jeans” barbecue where Rick Scott and his family made their first appearance at the end of a wearying day on the road.

Scott got his hair cut, passed out pizza and posed for tons of pictures before winding down his third full day on a statewide sweep by slipping into a pair of faded jeans and a tuxedo shirt.

Scott family boot scoot: Rick Scott, wife Ann and mother Esther stylin' in Newberry

The barbecue – replete with a real live elephant – has become a tradition for GOP lawmakers and politicians in its eight year at a Newberry horse farm outside Gainesville.

Among those in attendance: House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater, the North Palm Beach Republican who’s also on the Nov. 2 ballot in his statewide bid for chief financial officer.

Atwater’s successor, Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos, has apparently been quite effective at taking over the reins of the chamber: Atwater was introduced at the event as the “former Senate president.”

Atwater’s reign doesn’t officially end until after the election next week.

UPDATE: New Scott ad bashes Sink over ‘Debate-gate’

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Alex Sink campaign spokesman Dan McLaughlin slams Scott for new TV ad.

“The ad’s a fraud. Rick Scott is a fraud. All of his attack ads in this campaign have been judged to be false,” McLaughlin said. “If it wasn’t this debate flap it would be something else because he makes these up. They are fabrications just like his entire Medicare fraud scheme was against the government and the taxpayers.”

GOP governor hopeful Rick Scott released a new television ad hammering Democratic opponent Alex Sink for breaking the rules during Monday night’s debate.

The ad begins with a clip of Sink featured in one of her own TV ads saying: “And if someone lies or cheats, I hold them accountable.”

“Cheating. Roll the tape,” a voiceover says then launches into a series of television news clips discussing Sink’s breach.

Scott, who dropped another $1.5 million into his campaign this week, began running the ad statewide today, just five days before Tuesday’s election.

Sink set off a firestorm after apparently reading a cell phone message during a commercial break at the debate Monday night. Scott went after her during the debate for breaking the rules, and Sink quickly fired her campaign aide who sent it. Both candidates had agreed not to have any communications with their staff during the hour-long face-off.

Sink went on the left-leaning MSNBC show Hardball Tuesday night to defend herself, saying she thought the call may have been from her 18-year-old daughter who is out of the country.

CNN later reported that an examination of the audio showed that Sink was told by the hairdresser who handed her a cell phone that the message was from staff before Sink read it. Sink’s campaign did their own audio analysis that found CNN’s conclusions were wrong.

The release of the statewide ad Thursday came as a surprise.

Scott, on the third day of a week-long sweep of the state, has said repeatedly that his campaign had already purchased all of its television air time and did not intend to ad any new advertisements and has instead been releasing web-based ads as well as radio.

Classic campaign stop for political newbie Scott

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Rick Scott frequently says “I’ve never done this before” when asked to weigh in about voting, polls and other political goings-on.

But Scott’s staff made a quintessential campaign stop to get a haircut at the Bent Pole barber shop in Titusville with a busload of reporters – and their cameras – in tow Thursday morning.

Dee Moreland, who’s been cutting hair for 42 years, gave Scott a “1/2-all-over” cut he maintains with a weekly visit to the barber at home in Naples.

Moreland said she was voting for Scott “and not just because I’m cutting your hair today.”

The buzz set Scott back $10.

“That’s fair,” Scott, a multi-millionaire who’s spent more than $60 million of his own fortune on his campaign so far, said.

Moreland wouldn’t say how much he gave her but that “he tipped very well.”

The Tallahassee barber who cuts Gov. Charlie Crist’s hair might welcome a Scott win.

The notoriously tight-fisted Crist always tipped $1 on a $10 haircut. Even with reporters watching.

Scott heckler voting for Crist

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

A heckler interrupted Rick Scott’s stump speech in Melbourne this morning for the first time since the GOP gubernatorial candidate kicked off a week-long sweep of the state leading up to Tuesday’s election.

Joseph Concannon didn’t have far to go to voice his dissatisfaction with Scott. Concannon works at Buz’s Automotive repair shop next door to That Little Restaurant where Scott’s caravan made a brief stop.

Scott ignored the interruption as he introduced one of his two daughters to a small gathering of supporters.

“Does she know you’re a crook? We do,” Concannon yelled.

Concannon said he was referring to the $1.7 billion fine Columbia/HCA paid to the federal government for Medicare and Medicaid fraud shortly after Scott was forced out as CEO of the hospital chain he founded.

Concannon was on a cell phone talking to his wife, Stephanie Hosala, a member of the local Democratic Executive Committee. He said she didn’t ask him to come to Scott’s event but he went over to voice his opinion when he saw Scott’s bus arrive.

Concannon conferred with his wife when asked who he backs in the U.S. Senate race.

“Charlie Crist,” he answered.

When asked why he wasn’t voting for U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democrat vying with independent Crist for his party’s votes, Concannon repeated the answer his spouse apparently gave him.

“Meek is so far behind he doesn’t have a chance,” the Palm Bay resident said.

Scott in Vero insists he will win

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

A Quinnipiac University poll released this morning showing Democratic candidate Alex Sink pulling ahead in the neck-and-neck race governor’s race for governor didn’t faze her GOP opponent Rick Scott.

At a campaign stop this morning in Vero Beach, Scott dismissed the poll results that showed a flip-flop from just two weeks ago when he was ahead of Sink.

“We’re going to win. We’re doing really well,” Scott told reporters at a rally outside Bono’s restaurant. “If you look at the likely voters and the absentee ballots and early voting, we’re doing really well. We’re doing well. We’re going to win.”

The poll of likely voters was completed on Oct. 24, the day before the final debate that set off a controversy over Sink looking at a text message on a cell phone during a commercial break, breaking the debate rules.

During the debate, Scott chastised Sink for smiling when he challenged her about a $6.75 million fine paid by her former bank for selling investors, many of them seniors, risky investments. Sink and the whistleblower who filed the lawsuit said Sink had nothing to do with the problem although she was head of NationsBank’s Florida operations at the time.

George Kopacz, in the crowd of about 300 supporters at the breakfast rally, said Sink’s demeanor during the debate pushed him to vote for Scott.

“It was the smile. It was dishonesty. She didn’t want to defend herself,” Kopacz, the Vero Beach retiree said.

Kopacz said he is an independent who voted for President Obama in the last election.

“I made a mistake. Like everyone else,” he said.

Scott’s week-long tour takes him to Melbourne, Titusville, Ocala and Gainesville later today. Sink will be in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth and Miami.

Day three on Scott’s bus tour: pancakes, puppies, caladiums and crooks

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 by Dara Kam

A Rick Scott supporter in Okeechobee

Day three on Rick Scott’s week-long sweep through Florida took the candidate and his entourage to Okeechobee, Lake Placid, Daytona Beach and Lakeland. Scott ended the night with some last-minute check-gathering in Miami before fundraising closes on Friday.

At Scott’s first stop at a pancake breakfast in Okeechobee, a state worker who wouldn’t give her name asked the Republican about his plans to shrink state government.

She’s concerned about who’s going to get downsized – managers or worker bees like herself.

Scott gave her his standard line about running government more like a business, which assured the Okeechobee resident enough to say she was leaning toward voting for him.

“You know you’re getting a crook. He’s not lying about it. He’s admitted it. So you know what you’re getting,” she said, referring to the $1.7 billion in fines Scott’s company Columbia/HCA paid to the federal government shortly after he was forced out as CEO.


Later in the day, Scott visited Lake Placid, the caladium capital of the world.

Scott visited his campaign HQ in Daytona Beach and the Republican headquarters in Lakeland where he was joined by possible 2012 presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.

As he has throughout the tour so far, Scott urged the party faithful to get themselves and their friends to the polls and vote.

Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S. Dak.


Early voting, which ends this weekend, heightens the significance of the meet-and-greets, campaign advisor Chad Colby said, because voters can cast their ballots immediately after visiting with the candidates.

“It’s what you have to do that last week to really get your message out and really drive people to the polls,” Colby said on a private jet between Lake Placid and Daytona Beach.

Scott celebrity star power – his mom

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Esther Scott with a Rick Scott supporter in Okeechobee

Folks throughout the small towns GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott is visiting on a week-long sweep of the state before election day are lining up to have their picture taken with the celebrity.

Not Scott. His mother, Esther, who’s visage has become familiar to Floridians on a television ad in which she assures voters that her son is a good boy.

Scott’s usual introduction of his mother runs along the lines of what he told a crowd at a pancake breakfast at his first stop this morning in Okeechobee.

“On those commercials she seems really nice,” Scott said. “She wasn’t. There was a reason I joined the military so young.”

“I’m just really glad my mom didn’t get on the ballot. I don’t think I’d win. I think she’d win,” Scott joked with the crowd at his next stop in Lake Placid.

Esther Scott is greeted wherever she goes, including at a pit stop on the turnpike where travelers posed for pictures with the 82-year-old great-grandmother.

Scott’s schedule today includes visits to Lakeland and Daytona Beach, where he’ll be joined by U.S. Sen. John Thune, the Republican who defeated former Sen. Tom Daschle and who’s rumored to be a possible presidential candidate in 2012. Scott will also be fundraising in Miami this evening.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Alex Sink will attend early vote rallies in Ft. Myers, Ft. Pierce, Port St. Lucie and Orlando.

New Scott radio ad: ‘Cheating. Hilarious.’

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

It didn’t take long for Republican Rick Scott’s campaign to make political hay out of Democrat Alex Sink’s “Debate-gate” gaffe at Monday night’s debate.

His campaign released a new radio ad poking fun at Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, for breaking the rules by taking a message from campaign aide Brian May, an insurance industry lobbyist who left his business to work for Sink.

Listen to Scott’s “She Cheated” ad.

Here’s part of the transcript:

“Did you see Alex Sink get caught cheating?”

“You mean when CNN caught her breaking the debate rules and getting a note from her coach?”

“Cheating. Hilarious.”

“Here’s what’s not funny. Alex Sink’s debate coach…is a lobbyist.”

“The same guy who gave her the note in the debate?”

“Yep. He’s a lobbyist for the insurance industry that Sink is supposed to be regulating.”

Sink defends herself on MSNBC, gives conflicting explanation of ‘Debate-gate’

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Alex Sink appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball today to defend herself about breaking the rules during last night’s CNN debate by reading a cell phone message during a break.

But Sink’s explanation conflicts with an audio analysis of what transpired between the Democratic candidate for governor and the makeup artist who handed her a cell phone with a text message. Sink read the message, violating the debate rules she and opponent Rick Scott agreed to barring any contact with staff during the hour-long debate.

“Well, what happened was, Chris, last night that the makeup artist held up her phone and said I just got this message, I don’t know who it’s from. I looked at it because, you know, I’m a mom. My instinct is my daughter’s in Europe. I don’t know who this mefor governor’s message is from. I glanced at it. I didn’t understand even what it was, and I just ignored it,” Sink told the news show host Chris Matthews.

But CNN’s John King, who moderated Monday’s debate in Tampa, gave a different account of what happened.

On CNN on Tuesday, King said that the network analyzed the video of what Scott’s camp is calling “iCheat.”
“We listened to the audio very carefully and the makeup artist when she approached Alex Sink said she had a message from the staff, and it was two sentences and advice saying that if that question comes up, say this, and be more aggressive when Rick Scott questions you and it is clear she looked down to read it and candidate Scott called her out, and it is clear that she cheated in the final exam,” King said.

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