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McCollum’s Lead Grows in Governor’s Race

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum’s lead over Democrat Alex Sink in the race to replace Gov. Charlie Crist is opening up, the latest poll from Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University found Wednesday.

The poll, conducted Jan. 20-24, had McCollum leading 41-31 percent, up from its last finding of a 36-32 spread back in October. Quinnipiac Polling Director Peter Brown said McCollum appeared to benefit from his threat to sue if Congress passes its health care overhaul, which 49 percent of its 1,618 respondents said they supported.

“Attorney General Bill McCollum has moved out to a double-digit lead in the race for Governor,” Brown said in a statement accompanying the poll. “He’s beating CFO Alex Sink among independents and doing better among Democrats than Ms. Sink is doing among Republicans.”

However, Brown also pointed out that the poll found neither Sink nor McCollum had high name recognition across the state – 48 percent of the poll’s respondents said they “haven’t heard enough” about McCollum to form an opinion of him and 68 percent said the same of Sink.

“McCollum shouldn’t start picking out draperies for the governor’s office,” Brown said. “Certainly part of his lead is due to being somewhat better known than Ms. Sink – although neither one is a household name in the state.”

The Quinnipiac poll also found McCollum holding a wide lead over his opponent in the Republican primary, state Sen. Paula Dockery. McCollum lead Dockery in the poll 44-6 percent, and 85 percent of its respondents said they did not know enough about the fiery Lakeland senator known for her opposition to the proposed SunRail commuter rail in Orlando.

Dockery also trailed Sink in a hypothetical general election match-up 35-29 percent.

Elsewhere, the poll found that a majority of Floridians support off-shore oil drilling, which was shaping up to be one of the upcoming session’s hot topics before Senate President Jeff Atwater announced a lengthy review of the plan. Sixty-three percent of the poll’s respondents said they support drilling nationally and 55 percent said they support tapping into Florida waters.

However, 53 percent said drilling within five miles of Florida coastlines is a “bad idea.” Brown said the findings indicated a “not in my backyard” mood of state voters about drilling.

“Floridians favor more offshore drilling, just not too close to the state’s coastline,” said Brown. “They are okay with drilling in their neighborhood just not in their yard. On all of the drilling questions, Republicans and men are the most supportive, Democrats and women the least supportive and independents are in the middle.”

Speaking Wednesday during the Associated Press' annual gathering of newspaper editors, Gov. Charlie Crist echoed the Quinnipiac Poll echoed the poll’s uncertainty about drilling.

Asked if he supported drilling, Crist said “it depends on the technology, to be perfectly honest with you.”

“The concerns that I have are several-faceted,” Crist told reporters. “I’m concerned about our environment. I’m concerned about our beaches. I also understand the economy. I also remember that a couple years ago, the price of gas went up to $4 a gallon and that was kind of a tipping point in my view as it relates to this issue. I’m open to it, but it has to be far enough, safe enough and clean enough before I would support it.”

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