McCollum, Scott Spar in Debate
MIAMI (AP) - In their first face-to-face debate Monday, Bill
McCollum and Rick Scott didn't move much beyond the attacks they've
leveled against each other in frequent TV commercials this summer.
The two candidates for the GOP gubernatorial nomination touched
on jobs, immigration and education, but mostly they just tore into
each other. Both accused the other of lying in their TV
A feisty McCollum, outspent on TV by the wealthy Scott, didn't
waste any time nailing his opponent for the Medicaid/Medicare fraud
committed by Scott's former company, Columbia/HCA. Scott was forced
out as CEO by his board amid the investigation, which resulted in
the company paying $1.7 billion to settle the charges.
Scott said that as CEO he accepted responsibility for what
happened but personally did nothing wrong.
"God help us if you run the state like you ran that," McCollum
said. "The public was ripped off, the senior citizens were stolen
from, Medicare was taken for a ride."
McCollum also accused Scott, who has spent at least $25 million
of his own money running TV commercials, of trying to buy the
Scott remained unruffled by the attacks and mostly stuck to his
talking points, which included his characterization of McCollum as
a career politician who is part of the problem in Tallahassee.
"If you wanted to build business, build jobs, would you elect
somebody that has never done it?" said Scott, whose strict
cost-cutting helped build Columbia/HCA into one of the largest
health care corporations in the world.
"Rick, you keep calling me a career politician," McCollum shot
back at one point. "I'm proud to be a public servant ... I've been
in state government. I know how it's run. You don't."
The two disagree on how to rebuild Florida's economy. McCollum
proposes freezing local property taxes for two years, cutting the
corporate income tax from 5.5 percent to 4.5 percent, and exempting
businesses that relocate to Florida from having to pay the
corporate tax for 10 years.
Scott wants to phase out the corporate income tax. He said he
wants to reduce property taxes, but said he opposes dictating to
local governments the details of their property tax structure.
Both said they support Arizona's tough new immigration law for
Florida, with McCollum criticizing Scott for TV commercials
accusing him of flip-flopping on the issue. Both said they
supported school choice and an accountability system that would pay
higher salaries to better teachers. Scott said the only way to fix
the school system is to grow the economy.
McCollum, 66, spent two decades representing central Florida in
the U.S. House and twice ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. He
was elected attorney general in 2006. He was the presumptive GOP
nominee until Scott unexpectedly jumped in the race, spending
freely to blanket the state's airwaves with his commercials.
Riding an antiestablishment wave fueled by the tea party
movement, Scott, 57, overtook McCollum in the polls and forced him
to start spending from his campaign account to counter Scott's
attack ads. Scott held a double-digit lead in the most recent
Quinnipiac University poll released last week.
McCollum and Scott will meet face-to-face in at least two more
forums before the Aug. 24 primary. The winner will face presumptive
Democratic nominee Alex Sink and independent Lawton "Bud" Chiles
III in the general election.
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