Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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Rick Scott's Florida Gov Upset

| Tue Aug. 24, 2010 11:01 PM EDT

Rick Scott, the wealthy health care executive and GOP dark-horse candidate, pulled off a surprising upset on Tuesday in Florida's Republican gubernatorial primary race. The tall, bald-headed Scott edged out Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a GOP favorite and former long-time US congressman, by a slim margin of 46 percent to 43 percent, with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

The crux of Scott's campaign was his outsider status, his rejection of Washington and career politicians, his appeal to the far right of the GOP. When not bashing McCollum, Scott's campaign fliers and commercials touted his independence and promise to bring a fresh, pro-business, fervently anti-tax perspective to the Florida governor's office. Polls showed Scott with the backing of a majority of conservative Florida voters, including the state's tea party contingent.

Scott may not have the record of a long-time politician, but he does carry a lot of baggage into his general election fight against Democrat Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer. Scott was at the heart of the country's largest fraud settlement ever, a $1.7 billion Medicare settlement by a hospital corporation he helped to found and led until his ouster. Another health care company Scott started, Solantic, has been accused of allegedly using medical licenses illegally and billing irregularities with Medicare.

That record, which McCollum highlighted time and again during the primary campaign, has tainted voters' view of Scott as he heads into the general election. According to Public Policy Polling, only 46 percent of GOP primary voters had a good impression of Scott. As PPP pollster Tom Jensen put it, "Five months ago we would have said Alex Sink looked like a dead duck. Now with the way this contest has unfolded she looks like the favorite."

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Cred Trumps Cash In Florida Senate Primary

| Tue Aug. 24, 2010 10:02 PM EDT

In Florida's bruising Democratic senatorial primary, party credentials ultimately trumped big money. On Tuesday night, Rep. Kendrick Meek claimed the Democratic Party's nomination to the Senate, handily defeating his opponent, billionaire real estate developer and political dark horse Jeff Greene.

With nearly 40 percent of precincts reporting, Meek led Greene by 23 points. Despite being outspent by a five-to-one margin, Meek's support from party luminaries like President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton helped pave the way to victory. Meek was also helped by what state officials predict will be a dismal voter turnout, likely no more than 20 percent, the St. Petersburg Times reports. With rain and thunderstorms keeping all but the most avid voters at home, that means moderates who would've picked Greene didn't hit the polls, while committed and active Democrats, who mostly backed Meek, did.

Meek now faces Florida governor Charlie Crist, a Republican turned independent, and conservative darling Marco Rubio in November's general election. It's a race Meek begins at a disadvantage: A hypothetical poll by Public Policy Polling for the three-way race shows Rubio leading with 40 percent, Crist with 32 percent, and Meek in third with 17 percent.

Greene's defeat tosses cold water on the 2010 election season's anti-incumbent theme, as well as the rise and success of wealthy, self-funded candidates. (See: Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in California and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin.) In Greene's case, his lavish spending on his campaign boosted his name recognition from practically zero to relatively well known. But that wasn't necessarily a good thing. For instance, when on Monday I asked Hugo Vasquez, a parking lot attendant in Fort Lauderdale, about the primaries, Greene's was the only name he knew, from the commercials and the Internet and the newspaper stories. But Vasquez added, "He's the guy with the yacht, who went to Cuba, yes? He said he went to visit the Jewish community, but c'mon—who believes that?"

In a way, the Meek-Greene race featured two campaigns with opposite trajectories. While Greene's campaign quickly gained steam, with ads for the candidate appearing both in Florida and outside the state and the national media latching onto his colorful past, recurring controversies ultimately sunk his run for office. In the past week or so, his chances at winning had all but disappeared. Meek, on the other hand, was criticized for his campaign's slow start. But he built momentum through the primary campaign, secured crucial endorsements, and cruised to an easy victory on Tuesday.

Does That Nomination Have a Price Tag? [VIDEO]

| Tue Aug. 24, 2010 5:00 AM EDT

Mother Jones' Andy Kroll breaks down the Democratic senatorial and GOP gubernatorial primaries and helps viewers understand Florida voters:

Battling Till The End For FL Gov

| Mon Aug. 23, 2010 5:38 AM EDT

When Florida Republicans vote tomorrow on their pick for governor, one of the most bruising, bitter primary campaigns will come to a close. For the past few weeks, Republicans Bill McCollum and Rick Scott have traded blow after blow in their gubernatorial primary fight in what quickly became an overwhelmingly negative race. The pair even took their fighting into the lord's house over the weekend, with the two accusing each other of lying and skewing facts and track records in respective visits to Florida mega-churches.

A new poll from Public Policy Polling shows Scott's attack ads may be working. Scott leads McCollum 47 percent to 40 percent, an advantage, it's worth noting, that's within PPP's margin of error. According to PPP pollster Tom Jensen, McCollum slightly leads Scott among moderate voters. Which is to say, if Scott wins, "it will be because he destroyed McCollum's reputation with conservative voters," Jensen writes. Scott leads McCollum among conservatives 50 percent to 39 percent.

But as Jensen notes, whoever wins the GOP primary for Florida governor tomorrow will emerge a wounded candidate in voters' eyes:

Regardless of who emerges as the winner Tuesday night Republicans' chances of holding the Florida Governor's office will have been considerably damaged by this primary campaign. Only 46% of primary voters have a favorable opinion of Scott and just 38% see McCollum in a positive light. They've left GOP voters with mixed feelings about them and Democratic and independent voters with pretty negative ones. Five months ago we would have said Alex Sink looked like a dead duck. Now with the way this contest has unfolded she looks like the favorite.

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