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Dockery’s Anti-Establishment Role in Governor’s Race

Paula Dockery said her entry into the governor’s race Tuesday gives Florida voters a choice they were not getting with rival Bill McCollum, the consensus pick of party leaders.

“I’m hearing from people all across the state – mostly Republicans, although I’m getting quite a few Democrats and independents calling and e-mailing me saying that if you get in the race I’ll switch parties just to vote for you in the primary,” Dockery said.

“That’s such an amazing feeling. That so many people that don’t even know me….are asking me to run and restore their faith in government.”

Dockery was flanked by fellow Republican Sens. Durell Peaden of Crestview, Alex Villalobos of Miami and Nancy Detert of Venice in filing candidate papers at the Secretary of State’s office. Dockery and her allies often have butted heads with Republican leadership in the state Senate – and the 48-year-old Lakeland lawmaker appears poised to seize on that rebel status.

“It’s one year from today. I have one year to travel this state to make my case to say `there’s a vacancy in the governor’s office, and I want to be the person to fill that vacancy,’” Dockery said, adding, “Can I raise the money? We’ll see. Can I grassroots campaign? You bet.”

Dockery refused to cast her campaign as being pivoted around beating McCollum, instead saying she was giving voters a fresh face to consider. Although McCollum has been raising money both for his own campaign and the Florida Republican Party, Dockery said she expected the party would not formally pick sides in the race.

She acknowledged, though, “I have not been contacted by anyone from the Republican Party all summer long.”

Dockery will make her formal announcement in her Lakeland hometown next Tuesday.

“We want someone who A is going to listen to us; and B, is going to clean up the act in Tallahassee,” Dockery said. She added, “It’s not my intention to buck the system, it’s not my intention to buck the party. I’m not getting in this to create havoc for the Republican Party. I’m in this to reclaim the party…people are very frustrated with the party establishment.”

McCollum claimed on Tuesday to be largely unconcerned with Dockery's entrance into the race.

"I'm focused on the race against the chief financial officer," McCollum said, referring to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink. “That's where my energies will be focused."Yet McCollum's camp clearly wanted those watching the race to know that he has already lined up the support of some pretty heavy hitters in the GOP, possibly furthering the notion that he's the insider candidate. McCollum on Tuesday rolled out an endorsement from former Gov. Jeb Bush and his campaign sent out a reminder of several previous endorsements from the likes of former Senate President Toni Jennings, former party chairmen Al Cardenas and Carole Jean Jordan and former House Speaker, now Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.

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