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Politics

Gubernatorial Race Turns to Attacks Over Ethics

October 13, 2010 - 6:00pm

With less than three weeks to go in the close gubernatorial contest between Democratic candidate Alex Sink and Republican nominee Rick Scott, the two camps continue to attack each other, both citing ethical violations.

The Sink campaign launched two more television commercials attacking Scott. One of the ads uses a tactic seen in other commercials from the Sink campaign as law enforcement officials, including some Republicans, accuse Scott of ethical lapses during his career in the private sector.

The other commercial quotes various press clippings that praise Sink and condemn Scott.

The two new ads follow a two-minute ad attacking Scott on the same issues that the Sink camp unveiled Monday and ran in the Tampa area starting Wednesday. The Sink campaign began running the two-minute commercial in Jacksonville starting Thursday.

Rick Scotts record of fraud shows why hes wholly unfit to govern our state, said Kyra Jennings, a spokeswoman for Sink. Rick Scott has hung his entire campaign on his business experience and voters have a right to know his real business record and thats why were airing our practically unprecedented ad in Jacksonville.

Added Jennings, "Scott refuses to answer questions, he refuses to talk to the media, and he pleaded the Fifth Amendment 75 times to avoid incriminating himself; hes clearly not a person capable of getting Florida back on the right track."

The Republican Party of Florida responded in force Thursday, attacking Sink, a member of the Cabinet and the state's chief financial officer, for allowing felons to sell insurance in the Sunshine State. Led by House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Delray Beach, Republicans -- including State Attorney Angela Corey, Jacksonville City Councilman Richard Clarke and Rep. Mike Weinstein of Orange Park -- blasted Sink over the matter.

"Were here this morning to discuss Alex Sinks role in the licensing of convicted felons to do business in Floridas insurance industry, said Hasner, who held a media event in Hemming Plaza in the heart of downtown Jacksonville.

"What we know so far is that she has granted licensure to at least 11 ex-felons convicted of financial crimes and crimes of dishonesty, said Hasner. And more to the point, this is about Alex Sinks poor judgment as CFO and also an example of her being a typical politician by saying one thing and doing another. And also refusing to be accountable and failing to accept responsibility. Because as you recall, Alex Sink voted to fire former Department of Financial Services Chairman Don Saxon for granting mortgage licenses to convicted criminals. And at the time, Alex Sink was quoted as saying, in cases where someone has already been convicted of financial fraud, there are no second chances. Lets also recall that Alex Sink expressed her outrage at that time and wanted Saxons head on a platter, but now she does not want to be held to the same standards.

This is an open-and-shut case of hypocrisy and one that has put Floridians at financial risk.

Insisted Hasner, We believe at this time that Floridians deserve to know more about the facts of this situation, of this story, and are calling for her office to release all documents related to convicted felons who have been granted licensure on her watch."

With the Sink commercial and the Republican media event both aimed at Jacksonville, both sides are keeping an eye on the First Coast.

While Jacksonville and the outlying area have traditionally been a Republican bastion, Democrats running at the state level look to cut into the GOP base as much as possible. For example, Republican presidential candidate John McCain defeated Democratic nominee Barack Obama by less than 2 percent in the 2008 elections -- not enough to help stop the Democrats from carrying the pivotal swing state.

But Democrats will have a hard time cracking the First Coast. In the 2006 gubernatorial race, Charlie Crist, a Republican at the time, defeated Democratic candidate Jim Davis by almost 20 points in Duval County. Even Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who crushed Republican challenger Katherine Harris in 2006 with more than 60 percent of the vote statewide, did worse in Duval County, taking only 53.5 percent there.

The Scott campaign relied heavily on Duval County during the Republican gubernatorial primary in August. Scott pulled 54 percent in the county, routing primary rival Attorney General Bill McCollum, who took 37 percent there.

Besides the commercial, the Sink team is relying on her running mate, former Sen. Rod Smith, who is based out of Alachua County, to help in the region. Smith has been campaigning heavily throughout North Florida since being named to the ticket.

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

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