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Dockery Will Reportedly Enter Governor’s Race Next Week

After months of thinking it over, Sen. Paula Dockery is poised to kick-off her candidacy for governor, party insiders told the News Service of Florida on Friday.

The Lakeland Republican is expected to open a campaign account early next week – as a prelude to a formal campaign announcement the following Tuesday in her hometown.

It would set the stage for a potentially combative Republican primary contest with Attorney General Bill McCollum, who had seemed on an unimpeded path to the nomination. Democrat Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, doesn’t appear likely to face a serious primary challenge.

For months, Dockery has said she is considering the campaign – a step apparently fostered by her high-profile role in the Legislature last spring, when she almost single-handedly led opposition to the $1.2 billion SunRail commuter train planned for greater Orlando. Her effort helped spark a “Draft Dockery” movement last spring among critics of the rail.

The 48-year-old senator has attended a couple of meet-and-greet events with supporters around the state. And Dockery also has met with David Hill, a Texas campaign strategist who has worked for two former Florida governors, Bob Martinez and Jeb Bush and also for Mel Martinez in his primary U.S. Senate campaign against McCollum in 2004.

McCollum raised about $1 million over the past three months – a period in which he also helped draw $3.7 million to the Florida Republican Party, contributions whose use on McCollum now could be complicated by Dockery’s primary entry.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll also showed Dockery well behind McCollum among likely Republican voters. The survey showed McCollum holding a 43-7 percent edge over Dockery, with the remainder of voters undecided about a Republican nominee.

Although Dockery also would be starting from far back in fund-raising, her husband, C.C. “Doc” Dockery, a businessman and investor, has plenty that could be used to jump-start his wife’s campaign. He sold Florida voters on high-speed rail in 2000, spending $2.7 million of his own money getting a bullet-train amendment into the state Constitution, only to have it repealed four years later

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