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Fla. governor candidates rally parties faithful

PUNTA GORDA – From handing out Halloween candy to stumping at a private ranch, Rick Scott and Alex Sink campaigned on opposite coasts Sunday in an effort to galvanize party loyalists before Tuesday’s gubernatorial election.

Scott, the 57-year-old Republican, began his day at a Baptist church in Largo, then walked around St. Petersburg’s waterfront downtown, shaking hands, eating ice cream and posing for photos with pink-clad participants of a breast cancer walk.

Sink, the 62-year-old Democrat, courted the African-American vote in Jacksonville. Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, attended services at four black churches with local Congresswoman Corrine Brown, then planned to attend an afternoon rally at a shopping center.

Sunday marked the sixth day that both candidates crisscrossed the state.

Scott – who has spent about $73 million of his own money on his campaign – rode in a luxury bus emblazoned with his slogan: “Let’s Get to Work.”

The Naples businessman often campaigned, in general, from early morning until night, usually in heavily Republican areas.

On Sunday, he motored down Florida’s west coast. Folks there supported him heavily in the primary and turned out by the hundreds to see him in community centers and restaurants.

During a GOP rally at an airplane hangar in Sarasota, Scott spoke briefly to some 1,000 people, reiterating pledges to create jobs, cut regulations on businesses and lower taxes. He briefly met up with U.S Senate candidate Marco Rubio, and the two men embraced.

Scott stopped in Punta Gorda at a neighborhood Halloween street party. He handed out candy to dozens of witches, vampires and princesses – and posed for photos with some parents.

“I’m the jobs guy,” Scott told the adults, referring to his plan to create 700,000 jobs in Florida.

George Lucas, 57, of Bradenton, said he has already voted for Scott.

“He’s going to create more jobs than his opponent,” Lucas said. “I like his integrity. He doesn’t hide. He doesn’t make people try to think he’s something that he’s not. He’s a good, honest businessman.”

Indeed, few voters appeared troubled by Scott’s past leadership of Columbia/HCA, a hospital conglomerate that paid a record $1.7 billion fine to settle federal charges of Medicaid and Medicare fraud. Scott, the company CEO at the time, says he wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Sink, a former bank president, tried to focus on the black vote in recent days while addressing large crowds.

Sink showed up at a barbecue and rally at Brown’s headquarters in a predominantly black section of Jacksonville’s north side. Around 150 people milled around and sat at tables eating while a TV was tuned to a Jacksonville Jaguars game.

Sink was introduced by Brown and Sen. Bill Nelson. Before she spoke, she jumped into a line dance some women were doing to the Akon song “Dangerous.”

Paulette Mitchell, a social worker who lives in Jacksonville, said she hoped voters would elect Florida’s first female governor.

Sink urged voters to get to the polls, saying “it’s a neck-and-neck race.”

Still, both candidates had to fight the perception of some voters that the contest has been marred by negative attacks.

“I don’t want to shake his hand,” said Briody, 60. “I’m pretty unhappy with everyone right now, all the candidates in general. They’re too busy spending their time and money on condemning each other.”