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Sore feelings in the Sunshine State

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Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, still smarting over his surprise defeat in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday against billionaire Rick Scott, has suggested his former opponent lacks proper morals and ethics and said he’s not sure if he will support him in the general election.

“I still have serious questions and I have had them throughout the time that I’ve had the very brief acquaintanceship with Rick Scott about issues of his character, his integrity, his honesty, things that go back to Columbia/HCA,” McCollum told a gaggle of reporters in Florida Thursday morning. 

Scott made his fortune building up the Columbia/HCA hospitals chain. But he was ousted as head of the group in 1997 in the midst of a major fraud scandal involving Medicaid and Medicare payments.

Four years later, the company reached a plea agreement with the U.S. government that eventually led to it paying the largest set of Medicare fines and penalties in history — about $1.7 billion.

Scott has said he wasn’t aware that company accountants were fudging the books. 

McCollum expressed doubt he will support the race’s Democratic nominee, Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, because he has “serious policy differences” with her.

“I’m particularly concerned over her position on the national health plan that’s out there right now,” he said. “So I have serious problems with her candidacy.”

McCollum said he wasn’t put off by reports that his state’s Republican leaders — who almost universally endorsed his candidacy — probably would support Scott for the Nov. 2 general election.

“It would be natural for leaders in the legislative delegation and others to chose to support him — that’s their prerogative,”  he said. 

When asked why he lost, the attorney general pointed to Mr. Scott’s sizable cash advantage.

“I think the largest part of it is I was outspent,” he said. “Many of the negative attacks he put up there people believed but I couldn’t respond to them adequately. “It was one of those disappointing moments. It looked like we were up in the polls, but the only poll that counts is the one on election day.”

Scott spent more than $50 million of his own money on his campaign — more than double McCollum’s campaign tab.

He added that there was no “single bullet” that led to his defeat before complaining further about Mr. Scott’s huge campaign war chest.

“The bottom line is, he outspent us,” he said. “He had a lot of negative ads and we were never able to rebut them in the end the way I would have liked to.”

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