Florida Democrat Leads Quinnipiac University Governor Poll for First Time

Florida Democrat Alex Sink leads Republican Rick Scott in the race for governor of the fourth- most-populous U.S. state for the first time in a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters.

Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, was supported by 45 percent of respondents to 41 percent for Scott, a former health-care executive, in the survey taken Oct. 18-24, the Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said today. The poll of 784 people has an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Sink was statistically tied with Scott in a Quinnipiac poll issued Oct. 12 and had trailed him 43 percent to 49 percent in a survey released Oct. 1. The Nov. 2 race will likely remain tight because 11 percent of voters are undecided, Peter A. Brown, the institute’s assistant director, said in a statement.

“Alex Sink has had a good week,” said Brown. “But with one in eight voters still in play and Scott’s supporters slightly more solid in support, this race looks like it will go to the finish line as a dead heat.”

Sink was viewed favorably by 43 percent of respondents in the most recent survey, up four points from the Oct. 1 poll. The positive opinion of Scott fell seven percentage points from Oct. 1 to 34 percent of those surveyed.

“The relatively wide gap between Scott’s unfavorable rating and his support in the horse race against Ms. Sink is unusual and probably reflects the Republican leaning of the electorate,” said Brown.

Broken Rules

The poll was taken before an Oct. 25 debate in which Sink looked at a text message from a staffer during a commercial break. That violated the debate rules and generated media attention and a radio advertisement from the Scott campaign.

Sink, 62, won the CFO post in 2006 in her first run for office after retiring as Bank of America Corp.’s Florida president in 2000.

She stresses pro-business policies, including a tax credit for companies that create jobs, a three-year income-tax deferral for qualified start-ups and more aggressive marketing of Florida as a tourist and convention destination.

Scott, 57, is running for the first time. He’s campaigning on a plan to create 700,000 jobs, cut property taxes by 19 percent and phase out the state’s business-income levy over seven years.

Scott started Columbia Healthcare Corp. in 1987 with two hospitals. In 1994, Columbia merged with HCA Inc. to become Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. It grew to 340 institutions and $20 billion in annual revenue, according to his campaign website.

In March 1997, the U.S. government announced an investigation of the company’s Medicare-billing practices and Scott left soon after. The company, renamed HCA Inc., eventually paid more than $1.7 billion related to the Medicare fraud claims.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simone Baribeau in Miami at sbaribeau@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net.

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