(AP/Huffington Post) Wealthy newcomer Rick Scott has won the Republican nomination for Florida governor, the Associated Press reports.
With 62% of the state's precincts reporting, Scott held 46% of the vote to Attorney General Bill McCollum's 43%. The third GOP candidate, Mike McCalister, had 10%.
Heading into the midterm election season, BMcCollum was predicted to cruise through the primary and claim the right to take on Democrat Alex Sink, Florida's Chief Financial Officer, in the state's general election. That expectation was challenged, however, when Scott made a late jump into the mix with the intention of spending massive sums of his personal wealth on his electoral pursuit.
Dropping $39 million in what has been dubbed the "50 million primary," Scott has relentlessly hammered McCollum with negative ads and vicious attacks. The former health care exec recently charged the state AG with being the "Tonya Harding of Florida politics" and in one television spot suggested voters should throw McCollum out like a baby's dirty diaper.
When asked last week in an interview with the Florida Times-Union if he would characterize some of his ads as negative, Scott said, "Absolutely not." On his campaign's messaging, the wealthy hopeful explained, "I believe that what I've tried to do is talk about who I am. I've had to defend myself and then I talk about the difference between my opponent and me."
Much of the damage control Scott's camp has been forced to conduct relates to his profession prior to stepping into the political arena. Sink summarized the controversy in a charge she leveled against the Republican hopeful earlier this summer. She characterized Scott as "someone who was forced to resign as the head of a company that pled guilty to massive amounts of systematic fraud, including 14 felonies, leading to a historic $1.7 billion fine." The nonpartisan Politifact subsequently verified the accuracy of the criticism.
The Florida Attorney General, however, struggled to keep up with Scott's pricey campaign and escape attacks on controversy surrounding his own candidacy. Some of the assaults he's had to defend have related to scandalous spending habits demonstrated by the Florida GOP as well as the recent arrest of former state party Chairman Jim Greer on charges of fraud, felony grand theft, and money laundering.
The election culminates a bitter four-month campaign marked by nasty attacks and record spending for a state primary race.
The newly-crowned Republican gubernatorial nominee faces Democratic nominee Alex Sink and independent Lawton "Bud" Chiles III in the general election.