On to November: Florida governor race set for Rick Scott, Alex Sink, Bud Chiles

Who's got your vote for Governor?

See the results »

View previous polls »

Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Alex Sink talks with reporters after voting in the state primary election at her polling station Tuesday morning, Aug 24, 2010 in Thonotosassa, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Alex Sink talks with reporters after voting in the state primary election at her polling station Tuesday morning, Aug 24, 2010 in Thonotosassa, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Candidate for Florida governor Bud Chiles addresses attendees during a town-hall style meeting at the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota, FL. on Thursday, June 17, 2010 at the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors/Florida Press Association annual conference. BRIAN BLANCO/Special to the Daily News

Candidate for Florida governor Bud Chiles addresses attendees during a town-hall style meeting at the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota, FL. on Thursday, June 17, 2010 at the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors/Florida Press Association annual conference. BRIAN BLANCO/Special to the Daily News

Video from NBC-2

— Ready. Set. Go.

With the nominees of both parties set, the race is on between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink for Florida governor.

Scott, 57, a multimillionaire businessman from Naples who came out of nowhere to win the nomination, has deep pockets he can reach into to spread his conservative message. He’s spent at least $38 million of his own fortune so far.

But Scott was bruised in a nasty primary election over repeated questions about the record Medicare fraud at his former hospital company, and will need to unite a bitterly divided party and improve his image across the state.

“(Democrats) are already united,” said Steve Hemping, chair of the Collier County Democratic Party. “They’ve been waiting for the primary to get over with so we can move on. Let the Republicans fight each other until the end.”

Sink, 62, the state’s chief financial officer and a former bank executive, made it through her primary election unscathed. She will have to build name recognition and define herself with voters, all while Scott attempts to define her for them.

“A lot of people think Alex Sink is a man,” said Frank Schwerin, chair of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee. “That means that a lot of people don’t know who she is.”

Of course, there is a third candidate in the race, Lawton “Bud” Chiles III, the 57-year-old son of the late- Gov. Lawton Chiles who has ditched the Democratic label to run as an independent. Recent polls have shown Sink edging ahead of Scott, with Chiles pulling about 10 percent.

Chiles could benefit if the battle between Scott and Sink is anything like the intensely negative campaign that Scott and Bill McCollum waged against one another for the Republican nomination, said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. Some experts believe the bitter fighting in the Republican race explains how little-known and poorly funded Mike McCalister took 10 percent of the vote.

“He’s not going to have the money,” MacManus said of Chiles, “but he might have the position if the other two start going after each other and start turning off voters. Much will depend on whether he is included in the debates.”

One of Scott’s main challenges in the coming months will be uniting his base and winning the support of the Republican establishment, which almost exclusively backed McCollum in the election. Scott touched on it in his acceptance speech Tuesday night, saying that now is the time to “remember those things that bring us together.”

“I liken it to Humpty Dumpty,” MacManus said. “He’s got to put the pieces of the Republican Party back together again.”

But if McCollum’s written concession statement was any sign, Scott will have his work cut out for him.

“This race was one for the ages,” McCollum wrote in an e-mail to reporters. “No one could have anticipated the entrance of a multi-millionaire with a questionable past who shattered campaign spending records and spent more in four months than has ever been spent in a primary race here in Florida.”

A statement from the Republican Governor’s Association on Tuesday night also seemed to lack enthusiasm for Scott’s triumph.

“Intraparty struggles are often difficult to watch, and the contest in Florida has been a good example of that,” the statement read. “That said, the primary is over, Rick Scott is the nominee, the general election has begun, and our party now looks forward.”

Schwerin said he is confident that Republicans will unite behind Scott, who won 58 percent of the Republican vote in Collier County and 56 percent in Lee. In fact, he said some McCollum supporters on his committee already have.

“Obviously Rick Scott’s ideas and approach resonated with Republican voters,” Schwerin said. “Also, the fact that he was able to pull so quickly in front of McCollum in the polls showed how vulnerable McCollum was.”

Peter Bergerson, a political science professor at Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero, said the Republican Party is going through “an evolutionary process” to find new leadership and new direction.

“You have a family feud,” Bergerson said. “Some family feuds last a long time, and some of them are fairly short.”

Although Sink hasn’t received a lot of attention from the press yet, Hemping said Democrats are “extremely excited” about her.

“She comes out of a business background,” Hemping said. “She’s not a career politician. She’s done an extremely good job as the CFO of the state.”

Sink received more than 665,000 votes in her primary race against a little-known opponent, which was about 70,000 more than the 596,000 votes Scott received in his primary against McCollum and McCalister. However, the Republican race drew far more total voters — about 1,285,000 — than did the Democratic race — 865,000.

“That could be the most significant issue,” Bergerson said of voter turnout, which favored Republicans on Tuesday. “(Increasing turnout is) going to be one of the tasks or jobs of Sink and the Democratic Party.”

CLICK HERE FOR RELATED STORY Rick Scott defeats Bill McCollum in Florida GOP governor primary

CLICK HERE FOR EARLIER VERSION OF ELECTION NIGHT STORY

CLICK HERE FOR RELATED PROFILE Rick Scott: Get to work as Florida governor or go home to Naples?

VIDEO Transcript: Daily News interview of Florida governor candidate Rick Scott

Elections 2010 Page:

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 1

RayPray writes:

Check out new Rick Scott campaign ad:

http://www.dc.state.fl.us/InmateRelea...

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features