On Monday former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, best known for his stab at the 2008 Republican presidential nomination and widely considered a candidate for the GOP nod in 2012, backed Attorney General Bill McCollum for governor and offered endorsements for other Sunshine State Republicans.
Under the auspices of Free and Strong America, a leadership PAC backed by Romney, the former presidential candidate praised McCollum for his commitment to conservative values.
"Bill McCollum has a record as a principled conservative leader who has always fought for lower taxes, less government and traditional values, and I'm proud to support him as Florida's next governor," said Romney. "It's time to return true conservative leadership to the Florida governor's mansion. Bill's plan to create more than 500,000 new jobs, cut bureaucratic regulation and attract more businesses is exactly what is needed to jump start Florida's economy."
McCollum is currently engaged in a surprisingly tight contest with health care executive Rick Scott, who has posed a serious conservative challenge to the attorney general. A poll by Quinnipiac University released last week showed Scott crushing McCollum in the race, with a 13-point lead.
Romney, who placed a strong second in the Florida primary in January 2008 behind eventual nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain, is not the only former -- and perhaps future -- Republican presidential candidate getting active in Florida politics. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who battled Romney for the support of conservatives, has also been very active in Florida politics with Huck PAC, his own leadership political action committee.
Besides McCollum, Romney backed two other Republican candidates for statewide office --Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, who is running for state CFO, and U.S. Rep. Adam Putnams bid to be the next agriculture and consumer commissioner. Romney did not offer an endorsement in the close battle for the Republican attorney general nomination.
Romney also backed three Florida Republican congressional incumbents -- Ander Crenshaw, Connie Mack and Tom Rooney. Romney had earlier backed former House Speaker Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate.
Romney also backed candidates for the Legislature. These included incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. He also backed Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Chairman Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, for another term in the Senate. Romney will be at a campaign kickoff for Thrasher in Jacksonville on Tuesday.
Besides backing the current Republican leadership in the state, Romney also endorsed Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who has been designated to serve as speaker after Cannon.
Romney also backs Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, who is running for the state Senate seat that is currently held by Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami.Romney announced that he is supporting Rep. Jennifer Carroll, R-Fleming Island, for re-election. And he is supporting former Speaker Pro Tem Dennis Baxley, who is looking to return to the House, running for the seat that Rep. Kurt Kelly, R-Ocala, is vacating to run for Congress.
The PAC is offering financial backing to the party and some of the candidates that Romney endorsed. The PAC sent $5,000 to the RPOF, $2,500 to both Crenshaw and Rooney, and $250 to both Atwater and Putnam.
The people of Florida are fortunate to have so many strong candidates who are committed to getting our economy back on track, said Romney. It is essential that we elect leaders who are committed to creating a pro-growth and pro-jobs environment, and that is why I am pleased to endorse these candidates today.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859