The PAC for 100,000-member Associated Industries of Florida handed Rick Scott his most prestigious recognition yet on Wednesday, endorsing both the health-care executive and his opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum, in the Republican primary for governor.
AIF, Florida's strongest business lobby, comprised of the state's major companies and other associations that work in defense of prosperity and the free-market system in Florida, applauded both candidates for their general support of issues that keep the business climate healthy.
AIF endorsements are always based on the simple premise that the candidates endorsed are the ones whose philosophy, like ours, is for a strong and vibrant free-enterprise system, said Barney Bishop, AIF president and CEO.
Ultimately," he continued, "the board chose to endorse both candidates, because we believe that either one would be generally supportive of our positions. Thus, AIF is sending a message to our members and to the business community-at-large that either of these two men would be good governors for the state of Florida.
Wednesday's endorsement was a greater gift to Scott than it was to McCollum, the Tallahassee establishment's favorite, who had gotten the backing of theFlorida Chamber of Commerce earlier in the day.
A Scott campaign staffperson, who asked not to be identified, said, "It's as if Associated Industries, the voice of Florida business, is saying, 'We aren't showing you favoritism, but you don't deserve to be shut out. You're leading in the governor's race and it's time for you to be acknowledged.'"
The Florida Chamber endorsed McCollum at an event at the Port of Tampa earlier Wednesday, calling the occasion the first time in the organizations history it has taken sides in a gubernatorial primary. On Tuesday, the chamber's national parent, the United States Chamber, also doubled down on McCollum -- forwarding $500,000 to the Florida First Initiative, a 527 group with ties to McCollum. Florida First has run commercials attacking millionaire Scott.
The private $500,000 contribution comes four days after and is nearly half the $1.26 million in taxpayer dollars McCollum received under the campain finance act. He defended accepting the public money because Scott had outspent him on the campaign trail.
Chamber Board Chairman Steve Halverson drew a contrast between McCollums three decades in politics and Scott, who has never held elected office.
We know he is a leader of the highest character, and that he is ready to lead our great state on day one, said Halverson. Bill McCollums experience, dedication and character are often overlooked in the sound-bite world of modern politics and news, but these traits are exactly what we should look for in our elected officials.
The Scott campaign, which is ahead in the polls, said that the chamber backing McCollum was a sign of desperation from the Republican establishment.
It is clear that Dean Cannon, Mike Haridopolos and their fellow Tallahassee insiders are circling the wagons around career politicianBill McCollum, said Jen Baker, a spokeswoman for Scott. It is unfortunate that they are spending their time pressuring others to support Bill McCollum in a primary contestrather than focusing all their energy on electing Republicans and growing our majorities in the Legislature. When Rick Scott is governor, principle will come before politics.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.