2010 ELECTIONS - PRIMARY ELECTION COVERAGE
- Results: Collier County
- Results: Lee County
- EXIT POLLS: Exit poll results in Collier, GOP governor races
- VIDEO: Hiller wins primary for commission
- VIDEO: Coyle will keep his commission seat
- PHOTOS: Rick Scott beats McCollum
- PHOTOS: Kendrick Meek beats Doug Greene in Democratic U.S. Senate Primary
- PHOTOS: Fred Coyle defeats Lavigne Kirkpatrick
- PHOTOS: District 4 Commission race: Kirkpatrick loses to Coyle
- PHOTOS: Brian Bigelow leads Lee County District 2 commissioner's seat
- PHOTOS: Runoff for Collier School Board District 1
- PHOTOS: Rosanne Winter 2010
- PHOTOS: Georgia Hiller leads district two race
- PHOTOS: Rick Scott casts vote in Naples
- PHOTOS: Florida Elections
- STORY: One judicial race too close to call, Mann a clear winner in other
- STORY: PHOTOS: Rick Scott defeats Bill McCollum in Florida GOP governor primary
- STORY: David Rivera, Joe Garcia will face off in November election for Collier’s House District 25
- STORY: Coyle, Hiller win seats on Collier County Commission
- STORY: State Senate District 27 race: Benacquisto, Merchant locked in tight race
- STORY: Nuñez and Ruiz to face off in Florida House District 112
- STORY: Steven Teuber, Elinor Scricca out as new faces take majority on Lee School Board
- STORY: Incumbent Brian Bigelow wins Lee County Commissioner for District 2
- STORY: Alex Sink wins Democratic nomination for governor in Florida
- STORY: Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio wins Republican nomination for Senate in Florida
- STORY: Meek wins Fla. Democratic Senate nomination
- STORY: VIDEO/PHOTOS: Georgia Hiller wins Republican nomination for Collier commission
- STORY: Coyle beats Kirkpatrick for reelection to Collier commission
- STORY: Florida governor election: Rick Scott holds steady lead over Bill McCollum
- STORY: Collier School Board: Six candidates head to November runoff for three seats
Elections 2010 Page:
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- READER PHOTOS: Submit your Election 2010 photos
- VIDEOS: Videos about the 2010 Elections
- PRECINCTS: Where you can vote
- CANDIDATE INTERVIEWS: Editorial Board video interviews with Florida candidates
- RACES: Search for local races by candidate, political party
- ENDORSEMENTS: Daily News endorsements for the 2010 Elections
- TWITTER: Latest tweets from Florida candidates
- SPECIAL SECTION: For candidate video interviews, map of polling places, photos and more stories about the 2010 elections.
DORAL — Down in the polls and the clock ticking in the closing weeks before the Republican primary, Florida gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum came out swinging during his first debate with his opponent, Rick Scott of Naples.
McCollum, the state’s attorney general, accused Scott of committing Medicare fraud while he was CEO of Columbia/HCA in the mid-90s, bilking taxpayers out of millions of dollars, showing “disregard for the rules,” and attempting to buy the governor’s office with millions of dollars worth of self-financed campaign ads.
“I don’t think the people of Florida are going to allow you to do that,” McCollum said. “I have a good record of public service that I’m proud of. I know that what I’m doing is right. I know that what you’re doing is wrong.”
Scott, in turn, described McCollum as a “career politician” and political insider. He cast himself as a political outsider and successful businessman who can turn Florida around.
“As you know, my background is in business,” Scott said. “I’ve built businesses from scratch. I’ve created private sector jobs. I know what it’s like to balance a budget.”
The hour-long debate, which was held at noon at the Univision station in Miami, addressed a variety of issues of concern to the Hispanic community, including immigration, education and the economy. However, the issues were almost overshadowed by the personal attacks — a continuation of the attacks being played out daily in competing television and radio ads.
Each candidate accused his opponent of lying about his record.
Both candidates pledged to create jobs if elected. Scott promised 700,000 new private-sector jobs, while McCollum promised 500,000, in part by lowering taxes and regulations. McCollum defended his proposal to freeze property taxes, both at the state and local level, at 2010 levels for two years.
“We need to tighten our belt in Tallahassee and we need to tighten our belt at the local government level,” he said.
Scott said the next governor should focus on state taxes.
“We often complain that Washington tells us what to do. But we sit there and it’s OK for Tallahassee to tell us what to do,” he said. “It makes no sense for Tallahassee to be telling local governments they have to freeze their property taxes.”
Scott accused McCollum of flip-flopping on his support for Arizona’s new, controversial immigration law. McCollum said he initially opposed the bill because it would have lead to racial profiling, but supports the amended version of the bill, which he said won’t.
“Mr. Scott is manipulating my words,” McCollum said. “He has been telling lies about my record all over television with his millions of dollars of personal wealth. And now he’s doing it again tonight.
“I want you to know that I’ve fought throughout my career against illegal immigration, against amnesty,” McCollum said.
To improve public education, both candidates called for merit pay for teachers and school choice. Both also opposed the recently passed national health-care bill. McCollum pointed out that he has filed a lawsuit in federal court to have it declared unconstitutional.
“I think it’s great that my opponent filed a lawsuit. I hope we win,” Scott said. “But a better option would be that we have a constitutional amendment that would outlaw that law, make sure that law does not apply to Floridians.”
McCollum, wearing a black suit and baby blue tie, was the more polished debater of the two. At one point he attempted to paint Scott into a corner, asking him to address a recent comment he made in Clearwater about dealing with schools differently based on the “school’s color.” Scott didn’t bite.
For his part, Scott, who polls show is leading McCollum by double digits, stayed on message, playing up his rags-to-riches personal story and business knowledge. Instead of responding directly to some of McCollum’s attacks, Scott, who wore a blue suit and red tie, directed interested voters to a personal website and said his “opponent doesn’t worry about the facts.”
Scott’s attempt at Spanish during his closing statement came across as forced and awkward. However, his campaign staff was on the ball, inundating reporters with fliers headlined “Setting the Record Straight” and “Bill McCollum Career Politician, Career Hypocrite.”
Scott also had support before the debate, as dozens of people wearing Rick Scott T-shirts lined the sidewalk while holding signs reading “Stick with Rick” and “Rick para Florida.”
“He’s a businessman. We think he’s better for this city,” Miami resident Luz Castro, 76, said of Scott. “It doesn’t matter what the newspapers say. The newspapers are always saying bad things about the candidates.”
Scott and McCollum will debate again Thursday in Tampa.
The candidates on the issues
McCullom: “We need more businesses across the state. We need their headquarters. We need their production facilities. As your next governor, that will be my number one priority.”
Scott: “As you know, my background is in business. I’ve built businesses from scratch, I’ve created private sector jobs. I know what it’s like to balance a budget. I have a specific plan that will create 700,000 jobs. It starts with making sure we don’t waste our state dollars.”
2. Accusations of Medicare fraud at Columbia/HCA, Scott’s former company
Scott: “With a company as big as mine, people make mistakes. So, when you’re CEO you accept responsibility. ... As your governor, if there is a mistake, which I hope there never will be, I will take responsibility.”
McCullom: “Rick, let's get serious. You say you took responsibility. The only thing you took was $300 million. You took it from seniors. You took it from veterans. You took it from the sick. Your company stole that money from the senior citizens of this country.”
3. Accusations that McCollum used the state airplane for non-business purposes
McCollum: “I only used the state plane for business purposes.”
Scott: “If I make a mistake, I guarantee you, I’ll take responsibility. My opponent can’t even take responsibility for that. So that’s exactly what you’ll get if you vote for my opponent.”
4. Bringing the Arizona immigration law to Florida
Scott: “The reason all this is happening is because the federal government has failed to secure our borders. When the law came out, first my opponent said it was far out. Then he said it's good for Arizona, but not good for Florida. ... Now he said it's good for Florida.”
McCullom: “Let me set the record straight, I favored the Arizona immigration law. I filed in court to defend that law from constitutional attack by President Obama. ... I want you to know that I’ve fought throughout my career against illegal immigration, against amnesty.”
5. Health care reform
Scott: “If we want more individuals to have health insurance, we’ve got to drive down the cost of health care. I’ve done that. ... As we drive down the cost of health care, more people will be able to afford insurance and will buy insurance.”
McCollum: “Seven minutes after President Obama signed the national health-care bill, I filed a lawsuit in federal court to have it declared unconstitutional. It’s a huge problem for us as a state, it's a huge problem for us individually.”