Chiles Long Shot Campaign
Tallahassee, FL – Self-financed political newcomer Rick Scott's victory in the Republican primary for governor stunned a sitting attorney general with decades of public service and may have split the GOP. James Call reports a third-party candidate hopes voters' frustration will continue to build and, in November, propel him into the Governor's Mansion.
"Politics is timing," said Bud Chiles. "And I think I have perfect timing to be a non status quo candidate and somebody trying to return government to the people versus the money and power."
Bud Chiles knows about political timing. He is the son of a Florida and Democratic Party icon, the late Governor Lawton Chiles, who orchestrated seemingly out-of-nowhere victories for the U.S. Senate and for governor. But Lawton - unlike Bud - did not face a united Democratic Party or a Rick Scott who has a seemingly endless supply of money to spend.
[Scott:] "Remember me? the handsome bald guy."
Scott spent more than 50 million dollars to persuade voters that he was a better choice to head the GOP ticket in the fall campaign. Party leaders spent money in support of McCollum.
[Scott:] "With a deep sense of humility to accept the Republican nomination for the office of Governor of our great state of Florida."
Scott conceded to supporters that the primary campaign was a hard fought race, and there are indications that it may be hard to heal the rift his attack ads created within the party. Attorney General McCollum has declined to endorse Scott. He said he has misgivings about Scott's past.
"Just giving you my reservations that I still have personally," said McCollum. "I just haven't met him and I don't know him that well."
And that's the opening Chiles intends to exploit. He plans to take a page out of Scott's book, being the outsider, and paint both Democrat Alex Sink and Rick Scott as the big moneyed establishment candidates that voters appear to be rejecting nationwide.
"People are tired of this partisan head knocking that is going on in Tallahassee between Democrats and Republicans," said Chiles. "It is not fixing schools. It is not creating jobs. It's not cleaning up the oil spill. It's not making our tax code fair. This system is what people are sick and tired of. You see it in the light vote. You saw it in the protest vote on both the Republican and Democratic side."
"I just don't think Chiles has the time to do it," said Florida State University Communications Professor Jay Rayburn. "Now, I may be wrong. If he had a pile of money he still doesn't have the time."
Rayburn has done polling and public opinion research in Florida for more than 35 years. He said he wouldn't bet 10 cents on who will be the next governor, but a lack of an organization which Scott and Sink both have and time are working against Chiles.
"I think it's sort of a toss-up whether Bud Chiles can put together a coalition. Whoever is going to do that is going to have to have a lot of money and one whale of an organization and we got, what, 68-67 days to get that done That's tomorrow. I just don't see how he puts that together. Now, that doesn't mean he can't."
Rayburn said that the heretofore unknown Scott had the money to put himself before voters. Lacking such resources, Chiles said he will use his "no party affiliation" to portray himself as the underdog candidate fighting for citizens. He said his independence will free him to take on for-profit HMOs and bug utility companies on behalf of consumers.
"You are not going to hear that from my opponents because they are taking their money," said Chiles. "So I'm going to speak that message loud and clear around the state and I think we are going to see a real momentum coming forward. The person who gets 33 percent wins this race and I think it's going to be Lawton Bud' Chiles."
A mid-August Quinnipiac poll indicated that Democratic candidate Alex Sink had 31 percent support, Republican Rick Scott 29 percent, no party affiliated 12 percent and 20 percent of respondents saying they were undecided.