Scott, McCollum Continue to Sling Mud in Final Weeks
GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Rick Scott lashed out at rival Bill McCollum Tuesday accusing the attorney general of harassing employees at one of Scott's companies and trying to “rig the race so he can hang on to his power.”
Scott, whose campaign has largely avoided the state capital in keeping with his outsider image, changed his campaign schedule Tuesday and hastily called a press conference in Tallahassee where he leveled charges of Chicago-style politics against his GOP primary opponent and called him both a “thug” and “career politician”
“In short, Bill McCollum is the Tonya Harding of Florida politics,” he said.
The primary race between McCollum and Scott has largely been marked by animosity between the two camps, but it has grown in recent weeks with Aug. 24 primary drawing closer. Scott still has a considerable lead over McCollum in the polls, but some observers and pollsters say the race will be close when the voters finally go to the polls.
Scott told reporters that the attorney general's campaign staff was calling employees from a company he started called Solantic and questioning them about company practices. Scott said the employees were fearful because in their mind, there’s not much difference between being contacted by the McCollum campaign and by the attorney general – who is a law enforcement agent.
“They're scared to death,” Scott said. “They're scared to death that someone... who works for the attorney general is calling them.”
Officials at Solantic also held a conference call prior to Scott's appearance in Tallahassee to shoot down allegations about its practices, mainly that it billed Medicare at a higher rate than it should have and that nurse practitioners worked at facilities without supervisions. The claims were brought to the attention of the McCollum campaign by a former Solantic employee and the campaign referred the allegations to state law enforcement officials.
Solantic officials said both claims were “completely false.”
McCollum campaign staff did engage in opposition research after receiving allegations about Solantic, a spokeswoman said, but it involved campaign staff only, not lawyers from the office of the Attorney General. She also said it was “absolutely not true” that the campaign had harassed anyone and that they were told by counsel that they had a legal obligation to hand over the information they had received to law enforcement.
In a separate matter, Tallahassee attorney Stephen Andrews, a McCollum contributor, asked a judge Monday to force a court reporting company to release a transcript of a Scott deposition in a lawsuit filed by a former Solantic employee against the company. Andrews said he wanted to know whether the medical clinics Solantic runs are a “hazard.”
On Tuesday, Andrews subpoenaed Scott for a deposition, requesting that the candidate appear at the Florida Press Center, which houses the capital press corps, for an oral examination at 9 a.m., on Aug. 20.
Scott repeatedly told reporters that he would not release the his deposition in the case, calling it a “private matter,” and his campaign spokeswoman called the subpoena “another one of Bill McCollum's crazy stunts.” During a debate last week, Scott said the man who filed the lawsuit was a disgruntled employee of Solantic.
McCollum campaign manager Matt Williams released a statement following Scott's press conference criticizing Scott for refusing to release the deposition saying his role in the case was a “very public matter.”
“Floridians deserve the facts,” he said in the release. “If Rick Scott won’t come clean with Florida voters now, how can he be trusted to lead the fourth largest state in the nation during these challenging economic times.”