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Politics

Bill McCollum Back to Basics, His Law Enforcement Base, to Salvage Gov. Campaign

July 25, 2010 - 6:00pm

Trailing badly in the polls behind health-care executive Rick Scott in the fight for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Attorney General Bill McCollum sought to reinforce his crime-fighting credentials Monday.

With less than a month to go until the Aug. 24 primary, with sinking poll numbers and a deepening discrepancy over what he said or didn't say about Arizona's immigration law, McCollum turned sharp right, making a back-to-basics move, heading to Fort Lauderdale to speak to the Florida Sheriffs Association Summer Training Conference. During the course of Monday's events the attorney general announced the formation of a new offshoot of his campaign composed of law-enforcement officials backing his bid.

Floridas sheriffs, police officers and first responders are the heroes serving on the front lines in our communities, keeping our families and streets safe and secure. Im honored by the tremendous support my campaign has received from leaders in the law enforcement community, said McCollum.

Joining the McCollum Law Enforcement Coalition are a number of sheriffs from around the state, including John Rutherford of Duval County, David Gee from Hillsborough County, Jim Coats of Pinellas County, Judd Grady from Polk County and Don Eslinger from McCollums home base in Seminole County. The coalition also includes Vince Champion from the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association and James Preston from the Florida Fraternal Order of Police.

Members from another of McCollum's bases of support -- the Republican leadership in Tallahassee -- are also part of this alliance. Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, a former sheriff of Citrus County, was named to the coalition. So was Sen. Steve Olerich, R-Gainesville, who used to serve as the sheriff of Alachua County. Also joining the coalition was Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, who served as director of law enforcement in Martin County.

As a five-term sheriff of Collier County, Florida, and having served with Attorney General McCollum on the Florida Domestic Security Oversight Council, I applaud his efforts to promote the enforcement of federal immigration law in Florida to better secure this state's public safety, said former Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter whoalso joined the coalition team.On issues from illegal immigration to cybercrime to anti-gang initiatives, Attorney General McCollum has worked to find real solutions to some of our states most pressing challenges. I am proud to join members of the law enforcement community from across the state in supporting Bill McCollum as Floridas next governor.

Hunters comments about illegal immigration were reinforced by McCollum on Monday.

As governor, I will champion efforts to improve public safety, crack down on illegal immigration, enforce our laws and keep dangerous criminals off our streets, said McCollum.

The Scott campaign members continued to pound McCollum on immigration, contrasting the attorney generals record to their candidates. Scott has called on the Legislature to passa measure on immigration similar to that passed in Arizona earlier in the year and which goes into effect on Thursday.

On Monday the Scott team sent out a series of quotes from McCollum which they say shows the attorney general was against an Arizona-style measure in April and May before half-heartedly backing the measure in June.

A poll released by Public Policy Polling last week found the attorney general far behind his competition, with only 16 percent of those surveyed having a positive opinion of him and 51 percent seeing him unfavorably.

Despite holding political office in Florida since first elected to Congress in 1980 and having made prior bids for statewide office, McCollum remains unknown to 33 percent of those surveyed.

The poll found McCollum was floundering even among likely Republican primary voters, with 27 percent of Republicans seeing him in favorable terms and 40 percent in an unfavorable light.Only 24 percent of the voters who backed John McCains presidential bid in 2008 see something they like in the attorney general, while 42 percent of them see McCollum in unfavorable terms. Conservatives, a key group in the Republican primary, see McCollum in similar terms, with 23 percent viewing him favorably and 40 percent unfavorably. Scott did much better than McCollum in the poll among all of these groups.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Bud Chiles also spoke to the sheriffs. Both Rick Scott and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, will speak to the group on Tuesday.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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