TAMPA — Fraud? What fraud?
The key argument against Republican gubernatorial nominee Rick Scott in the primary is no longer on the minds of the GOP establishment as legislative and party leaders came together Monday to tout the former Columbia/HCA CEO as a business leader who will create jobs.
The fact that he led the company when it committed Medicare fraud that resulted in a $1.7 billion settlement to avoid criminal charges is no longer a talking point.
“You’re not going to hear it,” said Deborah Cox-Roush, the state GOP’s vice chairwoman. “He answered that question in the primary. Rick has a good message. We are going to put Florida back to work. It’s about the economy.”
Notably absent at the event was Attorney General Bill McCollum, Scott’s primary opponent, who in the second of two debates mentioned the fraud issue 15 times. Party Chairman Sen. John Thrasher was also absent, though Cox-Roush said he would appear with Scott on Tuesday.
But incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos and incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon were on stage with Scott in front of a crowd of less than 100 people at an airport hangar. They put aside the fact that the Scott campaign accused them of laundering special interest money for McCollum.
“The one thing that unites us all is principles,” Cannon said. “That’s what’s great about Rick. He is an outsider from the process but he’s 100 percent consistent on conservative principles.”
Haridopolos acknowledged that he and Cannon were not with Scott two weeks ago. But now that he’s the nominee, he was ready to praise him.
“We know that when we operate the government more like a business we create more jobs and more opportunities in this state,” Haridopolos said.
Scott beamed as he repeated his campaign slogan “Let’s get to work” during a short speech.
“We’re going to turn this economy around and everybody’s going to get back to work,” Scott said.
He also acknowledged that McCollum, whom he labeled as a flip-flopping career politician during the primary, hasn’t endorsed him, though he expressed hope he would.
“I know Bill McCollum is struggling with this,” Scott said. “I feel sorry for him, what he’s going through.”
Asked whether he would shake the Columbia/HCA fraud history in the general election, Scott said, “It didn’t work for Bill McCollum.”