McCollum Clings to Hope Until the Bitter End
Around the State
It wasn't easy for Attorney General Bill McCollum to accept that newcomer Rick Scott had upset Florida's Republican establishment -- and with that upset, his dream of being Florida's next governor.
But Tuesday night, with all but Broward and Palm Beach counties reporting, Scott had garnered 592,471 votes -- or, 46 percent -- to McCollum's 553,746 -- or 43 percent. And it became obvious that the Florida Division of Elections website was taking the Republican gubernatorial primary out of either candidate's control.
Long after national news networks called the race for Scott, McCollum refused to concede, saying he would wait till all the votes are in. Even in his defiant speech, McCollum admitted the most expensive primary in Florida's history was a bitter campaign and his opponent had deeper pockets.
"This has been a tough, grueling battle all the way through," McCollum said to his supporters at an after-primary party at the Orlando Hilton. "We didn't have the resources of the other guy by any stretch of the imagination."
Finally, with Republican Party Chairman John Thrasher reluctantly calling the race for Scott, McCollum's campaign issued a statement from the candidate.
"The votes today have been tallied and I accept the voters’ decision,” McCollum said in his statement.
“This race was one for the ages. No one could have anticipated the entrance of a multimillionaire 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.
“While I was disappointed with the negative tone of the race, I couldn’t be more proud of our campaign and our supporters for fighting back against false and misleading advertising when we were down by double-digits."
Throughout the long campaign both candidates provided plenty of mudslinging.
McCollum supporters at the rally held for the candidate in Altamonte Springs were wary of the fraud settlement made by Scott's HCA/Columbia in the late 1990s, while Scott voters responded to the branding of McCollum as a career politician.
"I really hated to see both sides go so negative, but there are big questions about Scott," said McCollum supporter Larry Toler.
McCollum supporters also bemoaned the presence of Mike McCalister in the race, saying he made the difference in the vote count.
"I think he's taking votes away from McCollum," Toler said.
McCalister held 10 percent of the vote.
Scott supporters were high on their candidate's business acumen despite the fraud settlement, and were glad to get rid of "career politician" Bill McCollum, a former congressman.
"It's primarily the career politician thing. You got to start voting like the people want you to, not how you feel like from day to day," Scott supporter Joseph Alderman said after voting in an East Orlando precinct.
In the general election Scott will face Florida's Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who won the Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday night, and Lawton "Bud" Chiles III, who is running as an independent.
McCollum, meanwhile, vowed to "remain committed to serving our state and serving out the rest of my term as Florida’s attorney general. We will continue our fight against Obamacare, continue to support states’ rights and their authority to crack down on illegal immigration and fight for all Floridians."
Gray Rohrer, who writes "special to Sunshine State News," lives in Satellite Beach.