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Bill McCollum Launches Campaign for Governor

Anyone who liked the political posturing of the most recent Florida Cabinet meeting may be in for 18 more months of it. Attorney General Bill McCollum on Monday became the second Cabinet member to enter the race to replace Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010.

Unlike other Florida politicians who have announced statewide campaigns recently, McCollum, a former U.S. Congressman from the Orlando area who will be making a third statewide run, held a live event to make it official. During the Orlando event, McCollum sounded a bipartisan note similar to the popular Republican governor-turned-U.S. Senate candidate from whom the GOP hopes he will take the torch.

Crist, who meets regularly with the Cabinet, said last week that he would forgo re-election to run to replace retiring U.S. Senate Mel Martinez, touching off a political scramble in Florida joined Monday by McCollum.

“The hallmark of my administration will be access and inclusion,” McCollum said according to a statement released by his campaign. “It will be an administration that does not focus on partisan labels but brings the brightest minds from every walk of life together – every race, creed, religion - to solve problems and move this state forward.”

Like his fellow Cabinet member and possible general election opponent Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink did last week, McCollum sought to frame his campaign governor as a continuation of his current job as A.G.

"Over the past three decades, I have focused my career as a public servant on advocating for and protecting the people of Florida.” McCollum said. “As Florida’s next governor, I will continue to work hard to ensure safety and security to our citizens, along with providing potential and opportunity for our citizens as we tackle the challenging times ahead.”

And just as Republicans wasted no time unveiling their opening salvos against Sink - and acknowledged her frontrunner status in doing so - Democrats did not hesitate to take the gloves off on McCollum Monday, calling him a career politician more interested in power than helping people.

"You'd think after 32 years as a professional politician, Bill McCollum's 14th campaign kick-off would be greeted with a collective yawn," a Monday morning E-mail from Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff read. "Well...not so fast. It seems there is excitement coming from some quarters -- namely, the narrow special interests and career politicians who want to keep Tallahassee just the way it is."

Another Cabinet member mulling a gubernatorial run, Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson, said last week that he's received calls from some GOP party leaders asking him not to run, though he has not yet made a final decision.

Right now, it appears both parties are gearing up to keep others out of the primaries.

"If that occurs, we've got an 18 month general election," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said.

If Bronson does ultimately sit out the race, 2010 will be the second time the GOP has cleared the way for McCollum to claim the party's nomination for statewide office. Party leaders pushed aside Tom Gallagher to allow McCollum, who gained some national notoriety from managing the U.S. House's impeachment proceedings against former President Bill Clinton, to run for Senate in 2000.

Brown said that McCollum could be following the political path beaten by the man that beat him in that 2000 race.

"An interesting analogy for Bill McCollum is, is he the 21st century version of Bill Nelson, who lost a lot but became well-known and was elected to the Senate," Brown said. "Obviously Bill McCollum would like to repeat that model. It's not impossible."

Pointing to an April Quinnipiac poll that showed McCollum holding a 48 percent approval rating for his job performance as attorney general, Brown said the attorney general would likely be a formidable governor's candidate.

"Floridians know Bill McCollum to a reasonably large degree and at this point, they seem to like what they know about him," Brown said. "Now the past is not necessarily prologue, but he starts off in good shape."

Brown said Quinnipiac's most recent polling shows McCollum having a higher job approval rating than Sink's 32 percent, possibly giving him an advantage in the potential intra-Cabinet squabble. But Brown also said a governor's race between McCollum and Sink could be decided by factors neither Cabinet member can control.

"What's the economy like on November 1, 2010 and what's Barack Obama's approval rating in Florida on that date?" Brown said. "The election will not be about Barack Obama, but it will certainly help Alex Sink if he is still popular."

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