Rick Scott dodges tough questions at Tiger Bay
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08/18/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Rick Scott at Tiger Bay


photo by Kate Bradshaw, WMNF

There are two things everyone knows about GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rick Scott. One, he’s launched a vicious ad campaign against primary opponent Bill McCollum, whom Scott is calling a political insider. Two, a company he headed paid a record $1.7 billion in fraud settlements. A third thing came to light today when Scott spoke at a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting in St. Petersburg– he’s just as deft at staying on message as the career politicians against whom he rails.

That was part of Scott’s response to the question of whether he thinks fraud is one of the commonsense ideas he wants to use to improve government. Scott is former CEO of Columbia HCA, which pled guilty in 2000 to Medicare and Medicaid fraud. He used the rest of his response to suggest that heads of business are, on the whole, more accountable than politicians.

Audience member Lee Alexander is president of a Largo company that manufactures medical devices. She said Scott’s record isn’t exactly reassuring.

Scott has capitalized on his supposed outsider status in a multi-million-dollar attack ad campaign against Attorney General Bill McCollum. His opponent has responded in kind. Scott had been enjoying a comfortable lead in the polls, though a poll released today shows McCollum leading Scott by nine points. Kim Black, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, asked what kind of example this sets for Florida’s school children.

Audience member Anissa Raiford said she wasn’t at all satisfied with Scott’s response.

Scott managed to stay on message throughout his appearance. He touted his humble beginnings as well as his plan to run Florida like a business. While Scott points to these as factors separating him from the Republican Party establishment, a recent ad of his may mean a real split between himself and GOP leaders. The ad purports ties between McCollum and disgraced former state party chair Jim Greer. Current party chair John Thrasher said the claims in the ad are false. Today Scott said he will not take the ad down, adding that establishment Republicans are scared of outsider candidates.

If elected governor, Scott would have to work with a senate president and house speaker who supported his opponent. Asked if he saw this as a problem, he said, not necessarily.

There are just six days to go until next Tuesday’s primary. Early voting ends Saturday.

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