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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.

Scott campaign abuzz about Sink’s phone gaffe

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott campaign staff were buzzing all day following news reports, tweets and Internet blog posts about Democratic opponent Alex Sink’s cell phone gaffe during last night’s debate.

Scott supporters used Sink’s flub to rev up the crowds at campaign appearances from New Port Richey to Okeechobee on Tuesday.

“Did you watch the debate last night?” Dick Windle, Citrus County Republican Executive Committee Chairman, asked a crowd of about 100 supporters at a barbecue in Inverness. “We caught her playing a little hanky-panky there.”

About an hour later, The Villages public relations executive Gary Lester again asked a gathering of about the same size about the debate.

“Rick’s opponent got caught cheating in the debate last night. Did you hear?” he said.

Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform who traveled with Scott throughout the day, got the biggest laugh.

“I’ve watched western movies so I knew, I knew that you could cheat at cards. But until last night I didn’t know you could cheat in a debate. But evidently Alex Sink has figured out how to do that,” Norquist quipped.

Scott campaign welcomes Sink snooper

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Rick Scott’s campaign took a far different tack with a videographer on GOP gubernatorial candidate’s trail than Republican Congressional hopeful Allen West.

West, who’s challenging incumbent Rep. Ron Klein, supporters were videotaped pressuring a Democratic operative to leave a rally.

But Scott and running-mate Jennifer Carroll were unfazed by the young man with a video camera who shadowed the candidates throughout the first day of a week-long bus tour and apparently has been a constant presence on the campaign trail.

Carroll pointed out the man in the crowd at a barbecue lunch stop in Inverness where she and Scott handed out pulled pork sandwiches to dozens of supporters.

Carroll identified him to the crowd as a campaign worker for Scott’s Democratic opponent Alex Sink and invited him to join in the festivities. One of the GOP candidates’ staffers even offered him a bottle of water and a sandwich.

“Hopefully, you’ll be able to take some information back so she can run a government,” Carroll quipped.

At the next stop in The Villages, Carroll recognized him again and asked him to raise his hand. The videographer obliged.

“Show Alex Sink how government should be run,” Carroll advised.

Sink’s campaign referred questions about Scott’s tracker to the Florida Democratic Party.

“We as a policy don’t release his name – but I can tell you he works for the Florida Democratic Party not the Sink Campaign,” FDP spokesman Eric Jotkoff said in an e-mail.

Confident Scott: ‘I was shocked!’ over Sink iCheat

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

SPRING HILL – A beaming Rick Scott kicked off a seven-day sweep of Florida leading up to Election Day assuring supporters in Pasco and Hernando counties of the Republican’s victory over Democratic gubernatorial opponent Alex Sink and taking the high road over Sink’s cell phone faux pas during last night’s debate.

Scott’s bus tour began with an unexpected boost – the “iCheat” scandal that cast a cloud over Sink’s campaign. Sink broke the rules by taking an electronic message on a cell phone during a commercial break during the last of two live televised debates. Sink later fired the aide who sent her the message.

“I was shocked. I mean, I was shocked. You know the rules. You follow the rules,” Scott said with a look of disbelief when questioned by reporters early Tuesday morning. “She knew the rules. If somebody came in and tried to show me an e-mail I’d have said look, those aren’t the rules.”

Sink took the message after hammering Scott for a lack of integrity evidenced by his former hospital chain’s $1.7 billion fine for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

Scott quickly used Sink’s cell phone incident to strike back at his opponent for ducking questions about her own business transgressions, including a $1.65 million fine paid by her former bank for selling risky securities to investors, many of whom were seniors.

“It’s pretty consistent. She knew the rules. She didn’t have to read the e-mail. She did. That’s what she does. She never takes responsibility personally for what she does…She just fires people,” he said.

When asked if he would have fired his aide as Sink did, Scott didn’t miss a beat.

“I wouldn’t have read the e-mail,” he said. (more…)

Nelson: Sink will win by a wide margin

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, on the stump with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink this afternoon, exuded confidence over the chief financial officer’s chances of defeating GOP opponent Rick Scott next month.

Although recent polls have showed the candidates neck-and-neck, Nelson insisted Sink would win.

“I think she is ahead now. She is ahead in the polls. And I think by the time all these ballots that have been counted on election night…She’ll win by seven points or more,” Nelson said.

McCollum endorses Scott for governor…finally

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

After more than two months since GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott defeated him in a brutal primary election, Attorney General Bill McCollum finally came out in support of his one-time foe.

“Florida is facing a critical time. Our state needs conservative leaders who will grow our economy and create jobs. We need merit pay and an end to teacher tenure in our public schools, major litigation reform, smaller government, low taxes and a repeal of Obamacare. With this in mind, I will cast my vote for Rick Scott for Governor. It’s the better choice for Florida,” McCollum’s less-than-enthusiastic statement, released by the Republican Party of Sarasota, read.

McCollum, at one point a shoe-in for the nomination, lost the GOP primary after Scott spent $50 million of his own fortune on campaign ads attacking the former Congressman for being a Washington insider.

McCollum said recently he would not endorse Scott’s Democratic opponent Alex Sink, in part because she supports the federal health care law over which McCollum has sued the federal government.

A federal judge recently allowed McCollum’s lawsuit to proceed.

McCollum was the final holdout among state GOP leaders who at one point pilloried Scott, who was forced out of the hospital chain he founded shortly before Columbia/HCA was forced to pay $1.7 billion in fines to the federal government for Medicare fraud.

Sink courts rural cross-over vote

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Alex Sink with supporters in Perry on Friday, Oct. 22

PERRY – Gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink will spend the day wooing small-town Floridians in an effort to get crossover voters to cast their ballot for the Democrat with early voting already underway for a race considered a toss-up.

Sink began her day in the Big Bend by appealing to a few dozen supporters at downtown Joyce’s Main Street Cafe.

There, she pleaded with Taylor County voters to give her the same 56 percent win she earned there four years ago in her bid to become the state’s chief financial officer.

“I expect and hope that we’ll get about that much again,” Sink said.

Sink spoke broadly about her plans to jumpstart the state’s economy on the same day Florida’s latest unemployment figures showed a slight increase – 11.9 percent – from the previous month.

Sink said she supports giving tax credits to businesses that hire Floridians and wants to defer business taxes for start-up companies for up to three years.

Accompanied by her son Bert McBride, Sink boasted that she would be the only governor in 12 years whose two children graduated from Florida public schools.

Sink said it is her dream that her children, who both attend out-of-state universities, will one day, “They call me up and say, ”Mom, I’m coming back to Florida because I’ve got a great job lined up.”

(more…)

Scott campaign pre-debate stunt: Sink ‘Rolodex’

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Rick Scott’s campaign staff quietly passed out black index card boxes labeled “Sink” to reporters biding their time until tonight’s gubernatorial debate kicks off at Nova University at 7 p.m.

“Sink has long been one of those behind-the-scenes players whose money and Rolodex help get people elected,” reads a quote from the St. Petersburg Times from 2002 taped to the top of the box.

Inside, Alex Sink’s fake files include a variety of familiar names and their pseudo-associations to Scott’s Democratic opponent.

“Barack Obama” is listed as Sink’s “chief policy advisor.” Bill Clinton? Her “finance and policy advisor.” Sink’s husband Bill McBride is included as “hubby and chair, Trial Lawyers for Sink.”

The candidates will go mano-a-mano live for the first time this evening at the debate hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.

At their only previous debate, a taped Univision event earlier this month, Scott’s campaign staff handed out whoopee cushions before the match began.

Scott and Sink will go at it again for their second live debate on Oct. 25.

New Scott ad fries felon-friendly Sink

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 by Dara Kam

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott released a new ad attacking Democratic opponent Alex Sink for licensing felons as insurance agents although a recent court ruling found Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, is too harsh on the ex-criminals.

Scott’s campaign released the ad the day of the duo’s first live televised debate set to begin at 7 p.m tonight. His campaign staff first handed out information about Sink licensing felons at their first match-up in Miami at a taped Univision debate on Oct. 8.

The ad claims that Sink “had broad discretion to withhold a license…but after 3 days of searching could not name one case in which she used that authority.”

But civil rights experts and Sink’s staff insist that she has limited authority to withhold the licenses and a judge decided that Sink’s waiting periods before felons are eligible to get licenses is too long. Her office has appealed that ruling.

Read The Palm Beach Post story about the licenses here.

What’s the definition of ‘is?’ Sink camp releases Scott deposition video

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink’s campaign released a Clinton-esque video of her GOP opponent Rick Scott’s deposition in a 1995 lawsuit, one of several against his former hospital chain Columbia/HCA.

In the two-minute clip of the two-hour video of the deposition, Scott repeatedly answers the interrogator’s questions with questions, including this response when asked about a deal he allegedly struck with an El Paso doctor.

“I don’t know what the def — your definition or anybody’s definition of an ‘agreement’ is, or an ‘offer’ is, or ‘promise’ is,” Scott answered.

The video first surfaced in a report by The St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald.

Scott’s campaign folks contend the health care executive was trying to stave off money-grubbing lawyers.

Senate Prez-to-be demands resignation of DMS secretary

Thursday, October 14th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Department of Management Services Secretary Linda South should quit her job because she signed off on runaway spending on an appellate courthouse dubbed the “Taj Mahal,” Senate President-designate and government penny-pincher Mike Haridopolos is demanding.

South approved a no-bid contract for the $48 million 1st District Court of Appeal courthouse in Tallahassee even though the rent from the building won’t be enough to pay its debt service, an audit by Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink found this week.

“Because of your irresponsible oversight, which has clearly wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, I call on you to submit your immediate resignation as Secretary of the Department of Management Services. You have failed to provide proper leadership and the abdication of your responsibilities has further weakened the public’s trust that their elected and appointed leaders will use their money wisely,” Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, wrote to South in a letter today.

(more…)

PBS/League of Women voters scraps debates because GOP candidates are no-shows

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The League of Women Voters and PBS canceled debates between the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates because GOP candidates Marco Rubio and Rick Scott refused to participate.

The League’s president Deidre MacNab said the debate, scheduled for Oct. 14, would have been the only one to reach all television viewers throughout the state.

The League could not get Gov. Charlie Crist, the independent U.S. Senate candidate, to confirm to appear either, MacNab said, meaning only U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democrat in the three-way U.S. Senate race, had agreed to show up.

(more…)

Bill Clinton headlines debate after-party for Sink

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Bill Clinton will guest star at a $5,000-a-head fundraiserfundraiser for the Florida Democratic Party after next week’s gubernatorial debate.

According to a recent poll, the former president is the most popular politician in the country, and he’s been touring the country as a “surrogate” to pump up Democrat voters and prop up Democrat candidates, including U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who’s trailing in the three-way U.S. Senate race against Republican Marco Rubio and independent Gov. Charlie Crist. Clinton’s made several trips to the Sunshine State for Meek already and will stump for him as well as Sink next week.

Clinton will headline Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink’s Miami Beach after-party next Wednesday after she and her GOP opponent Rick Scott debate in Davie.

Argenziano quits utility reg panel, endorses Sink

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Nancy Argenziano resigned from the Florida Public Service Commission to endorse Alex Sink for governor, she told reporters this afternoon.

The life-long Republican and former lawmaker said today would be her final day on the utility regulatory panel, where she was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist nearly four years ago.

A fired-up Argenziano, an outspoken critic of GOP leaders of the Florida Legislature, said she was quitting so she could speak out in favor of Sink, a Democrat.

“I cannot imagine a more noxious mix of government than that which the legislative leaders and Rick Scott concoction would produce,” Argenziano said. “I’m terrified if Rick Scott became governor…With Alex Sink, I do believe she has integrity.

Argenziano was passed over for reappointment by a panel of lawmakers that give a list of candidates to the governor for appointment. Her term would have ended in three months.

McCollum likely to vote for Scott, still no endorsement

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Bill McCollum said he is likely to vote for GOP governor candidate Rick Scott but still won’t endorse him.

Scott, who had never run for office before, defeated McCollum after a brutal primary in which Scott spent $50 million of his own money, much of it on negative campaign ads targeting McCollum, who spent decades in Congress and as a lobbyist, as a career politician.

McCollum said he has “big differences” with Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the Democrat gubernatorial candidate, primarily about her opposition to his lawsuit against the federal government over health care reforms.

“I cannot vote for her for governor,” McCollum told reporters after a Cabinet meeting this morning.

Although McCollum has refused to endorse Scott, McCollum said he will “probably” vote in the governor’s race.

“And if I do I’m leaning towards voting for Scott. But I haven’t made that decision formally yet. Haven’t decided. I’m weighing it right now,” he said.

He said he hasn’t decided either whether he will formally endorse his former opponent but that he’s offered to meet with Scott “more than once and no meetings occurred to this point.”

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