A tea party group downgraded Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum on its conservative report card for failing to sign a pledge opposing the "bailout" of U.S. Sugar Corp.
The pledge was part of a questionnaire sent by Tea Party in Action to political candidates across the state to gauge their positions on issues important to the tea partiers. The group's executive director Marianne Moran said McCollum's failure to sign the pledge deprived him from earning a perfect score and matching his rival Rick Scott.
"While Rick Scott scored a perfect score, his opponent for the gubernatorial nod, Attorney General Bill McCollum, earned a lesser degree of support because he wavered on a key issue. Attorney General McCollum declined to sign his name to a pledge to oppose the U.S. Sugar Corp. bailout," Moran said in a statement.
She said the absence of McCollum's signature left his questionnaire incomplete.
Moran said she contacted McCollum's campaign "several times" in an effort to get the candidate to sign the pledge. "But they declined," she said.
McCollum spokeswoman Kristy Campbell sidestepped the signature dispute and questioned the tea group's "bailout" reference. "That (original) deal is not on the table any more," she said.
Nearly three years after the deal was engineered by now-independent Gov. Charlie Crist, the South Florida Water Management District's governing board voted last week to proceed with a scaled-down purchase of 28,000 acres for $197 million, ostensibly to restore a portion of the Everglades.
Tea party groups, including Moran's, oppose the U.S. Sugar land acquisition, calling it a politically driven raid on taxpayer funds that will do little or nothing to help the Everglades.
Joining tea partiers rallying outside SFWMD's West Palm Beach headquarters, Scott accused McCollum of being in U.S. Sugar's pocket.
"During the course of his campaign, McCollum and his attack groups have directly or indirectly received nearly $1 million from U.S. Sugar. He has cut a secret deal supporting a secret tax," Scott charged.
Campbell called Scott's tax allegations "ludicrous" and "out of touch with reality."
"(McCollum) has pledged not to raise taxes," she said.
Campbell added that federal courts have mandated that certain Everglades restoration projects move forward.
Moran listed hundreds of candidates who completed and signed her group's questionnaire, which also included questions on immigration, a balanced budget, limited government and "Obamacare."
The document was mailed to candidates around Aug. 7-8, she said.
Moran said McCollum still has time to sign the pledge.
"If he wants to sign that's OK. He would (then) have the perfect score," she said.
Meanwhile, Moran stated, The results of our questionnaire will be distributed to every tea party group in the state of Florida, and will be spread on Facebook, Twitter and the grass-roots network in order to help citizens decide whom they will support in the Aug. 24 primary."
Hundreds of candidates across Florida responded to the groups questionnaire, she said. The survey was sent to all candidates for legislative, local and statewide office. Topping the list of like-minded respondents, besides Rick Scott for governor, was Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, candidate for attorney general.
View the list of respondents here.
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