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Wealthy Political Newcomers Shake Up Florida Primary Races for Governor

4 years ago
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In a year where the unexpected has scrambled races that everyone thought were on predictable tracks, Florida has produced yet another surprise with political newcomer Rick Scott vaulting to a 13 point lead over state Attorney General Bill McCollum in the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted June 2-8.
And the Democrats have their own twist in their primary, with billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene jumping into that race against Rep. Kendrick Meek.
While a Mason-Dixon Research poll in early May showed Scott closing in on McCollum helped by a $4.7 million advertising campaign, the Quinnipiac poll puts Scott ahead by 44 percent to 31 percent with 24 percent undecided. At this early stage, 59 percent of voters say they might yet change their minds, with roughly equal numbers of Scott and McCollum supporters in that category.
Jeff Greene, Rick ScottDespite Scott's ad blitz, 46 percent of voters say they haven't heard enough about him to have a favorable or unfavorable opinion. But McCollum, despite having served in Congress and now in statewide office, also still needs to make himself better known with 36 percent saying they hadn't heard enough about him.
McCollum has tried to counter Scott by pointing to his role as former head of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain which came under federal investigation for Medicare and Medicaid fraud in 1997 and ultimately paid a record $1.7 billion in fines.
Scott, who resigned under pressure in 1997, has come back with an ad in which he admitted the company's mistakes and took responsibility as former CEO, but said he had never been charged or questioned by authorities, and that many of Columbia/HCA's hospitals in the state were top-rated.
On the Democratic side, Greene, like Scott, is pitching himself as an outsider to the political establishment. The Quinnipiac poll has Meek, who is little known outside his congressional district which covers parts of Miami and Hollywood, leading Greene by a bare 29 percent to 27 percent with 6 percent for other candidates and 37 percent undecided. The margin of error is 3.5 points.
Sixty-four percent of voters haven't heard enough about Greene to have an opinion of him but the same is true of 59 percent of voters when it comes to Meek. Greene told the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald that he would "spend whatever it takes to get my message out and to be competitive with these career politicians."
As with the Republican race, a large number of voters -- 62 percent -- said they might yet change their minds on their choices, though more Greene supporters (69 percent) said that than did backers of Meek (55 percent).

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