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Dockery Makes It Official

Sen. Paula Dockery jumped into the governor’s race Tuesday, ending Bill McCollum’s virtually unobstructed path to the nomination backed by most Republican leaders.

The 48-year-old Lakeland senator said she planned to file campaign papers mid-afternoon Tuesday, walking the documents from the Capitol to the Secretary of State’s office two blocks away.

“Some may question why I would undertake this campaign, given that the leadership of the Republican Party of Florida seems to have anointed a candidate,” Dockery said in remarks she planned to deliver at a news conference later Tuesday. “To them, I say this: people want a choice. People I meet don’t want to be told what to think.”

Dockery clearly enters the race as a maverick – hoping that the visibility she gained through her two-year campaign against Central Florida’s SunRail commuter train now leads to the governor’s office.

McCollum on Tuesday shrugged off Dockery’s entry into the race, saying he had expected a primary opponent to eventually emerge – and that it would likely be the senator who has been talking about running for months. But McCollum said he was undeterred and still saw his real race being against Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the only major Democratic contender.

“I’m focused on the race against the chief financial officer,” McCollum said adding, “that’s where my energies will be focused.”

McCollum concluded, “The two leading contenders are myself on the Republican side and the chief financial officer on the Democratic side….I don’t see a divided party when it comes to this race.”

Meanwhile, McCollum picked up the endorsement Tuesday of former Gov. Jeb Bush, who subtly hit at Dockery's perceived moderate stance at a time when many conservative voters have been expressing displeasure with centrist candidates backed by the mainstream GOP.

“At this critical time in our state's history, we need a chief executive who will meet our challenges head on and stay true to the core conservative principles of limited govrernment, fiscal discipline and the protection of liberty tempered by personal responsibility,” Bush said in a statement.

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