Friday, January 19, 2018
Politics

Bousquet: Gov. Rick Scott begins to reconnect with voters

He's raising boatloads of campaign money.

He's traveling the state constantly.

And Gov. Rick Scott is spending time reaching out to rank-and-file voters as he chases a second term.

Following a campaign fundraiser last Tuesday at Island Way Grill in Clearwater, Scott held a telephone town hall for voters in Hillsborough County. It was set up by the Republican Party of Florida, whose help Scott belatedly received in 2010, after the GOP establishment spent millions on TV ads that damaged Scott's image as they sought to help another Republican candidate, Bill McCollum.

Most people on the line were Republicans, but party spokeswoman Susan Hepworth said some were independents or Democrats who may be "somewhat inclined" to vote for Scott next year.

"This is the beginning of a year-long methodical effort of informing, targeting and communicating, unfiltered, with the voters who will make up the majority who will keep Rick Scott in office," Hepworth said.

The event was the second of its kind in Scott's 2014 campaign (the first was in Marion County). By coincidence, a Tampa Bay Times staff member was among the hundreds of voters invited to listen.

For an hour, Scott took calls from voters on a wide variety of topics ranging from the outsourcing of American jobs to debit cards for teachers.

The forum was a long version of Scott's talking points: the economy is improving, schools are getting better and Florida is a great place to live and work. He cited his support for port expansion and eagerness to visit schools.

"Alvin" complained to Scott that federal tax laws reward U.S. businesses for moving jobs overseas. Scott said he had "a very legitimate point."

"Salvatore's" question sounded scripted. He asked if Scott is trying to recruit jobs in other states or countries (the crux of Scott's agenda).

"I'm recruiting every day," Scott said.

"Eric" asked where Scott sees the greatest opportunities for revenue growth. Scott said the answer is to promote tourism more aggressively, enhance seaports and boost the real estate climate.

He spoke of balancing his first budget after $4 billion in cuts but didn't mention that balancing the budget is a constitutional requirement for him and the Legislature.

"Claudia," a teacher, wanted Scott to clarify his offer of tax-free debit cards to help teachers offset classroom expenses. (Many Florida school districts opted out of the program and said the cards are not available on a timely basis.)

"We appreciate the support we're seeing from you now," she told the governor.

Scott stressed his support for a teacher pay raise, said he and his wife get to schools as often as they can and asked Claudia to call his office and invite him to her school.

"My job is to hear from you," Scott said.

It's doubtful that a single telephone town hall will change many people's minds about Gov. Scott.

The larger point is that Scott and the Republicans are busy synthesizing their campaign message well in advance of the 2014 vote.

Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

WASHINGTON — A bitterly-divided Congress hurtled toward a government shutdown this weekend in a partisan stare-down over demands by Democrats for a solution on politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger immigrants from being dep...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

CLEARWATER — Voters may not be too familiar with the name John Funk.So since launching his campaign for City Council Seat 5 against well-known incumbent Hoyt Hamilton, Funk said he has knocked on 2,000 doors to introduce himself. Before the March 13 ...
Published: 01/19/18
Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

CLEARWATER — By asking voters to elect him into office a fifth time, Hoyt Hamilton knows he’s now considered part of the old-guard. Born and raised in Clearwater, his family roots stretch back here more than 100 years. Hamilton, 59, spent nearly his ...
Published: 01/19/18

Q&A: Government shutdown looms. Here’s what you need to know

Lawmakers have until midnight tonight to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown.Here’s what that means. Why would the government shut down?Every year, Congress has to approve laws, known as appropriations, that provide money for federal agen...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

REDINGTON SHORES — There will be no election this year, but the changeout of commission members that began last year will continue. When the new commission is sworn in this March, four of five members, including the mayor, will have changed within th...
Published: 01/18/18
Rick Baker leaving Edwards Group, promoting new book

Rick Baker leaving Edwards Group, promoting new book

ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Baker is opening a new chapter in his life. So far, the future remains an open book.The former two-term mayor announced Sunday that he’s resigning his position as president of the Edwards Group effective Jan. 31.Baker has worked...
Published: 01/18/18
Madeira Beach voters have clear choices as battle lines form over growth

Madeira Beach voters have clear choices as battle lines form over growth

By Sheila Mullane EstradaTimes CorrespondentMADEIRA BEACH — Voters here can either end or continue the city’s divisive politics on March 13. They will also decide how the city grows.The two commission seats that now represent pro-growth and pro-devel...
Published: 01/18/18
Christie leaves as unpopular N.J. governor, but with no broken legs

Christie leaves as unpopular N.J. governor, but with no broken legs

TRENTON, N.J. — Republican Chris Christie left the New Jersey governor’s office with his popularity in tatters, but at least he didn’t break a leg. Christie is the first elected New Jersey governor in more than two decades not to suffer a broken leg ...
Published: 01/17/18
Ernest Hooper: Restoring rights after prison is about redemption, not politics

Ernest Hooper: Restoring rights after prison is about redemption, not politics

Desmond Meade says everywhere he goes in Florida, he hears the stories.From whites and blacks, conservatives and liberals, blue collar laborers and white collar wage earners. People from all walks have walked up to him with a common request.They’re c...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
23 seek vacant PSC post

23 seek vacant PSC post

There is another Mariano seeking a job in Tallahassee.Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano, the father of state Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, is seeking an appointment to the Florida Public Service Commission, the powerful board regulating Florida ...
Published: 01/16/18