Monday, December 18, 2017
Politics

The Rev. Chairman Tom Scott on voting, and what's next

He would grow up to be many things: prominent pastor, longtime elected official, strong voice in Tampa's black community — and lately, vocal opponent of legislation that could keep certain voters from the polls.

But on that day all those years ago, Tom Scott was a kid helping his mom.

He was 11, one of 11 brothers and sisters growing up in a three-bedroom house in Macon, Ga., in a time when you still saw separate water fountains for whites and blacks.

But the civil rights movement pressed on, even in Macon. And for the first time in her 51 years, his mother got registered and was going to cast a vote. She had a third-grade education and didn't read so well, so the son she called Thomas went along.

Nearly half a century has passed since he stepped behind the curtain with his mother and pulled the lever like she told him to. (Lyndon B. Johnson, since you ask.) But even then he knew this was important, this sense of dignity and pride, this idea of having a voice and a choice.

"I never forgot that," he says now.

He grew up to be a preacher, a Hillsborough County commissioner for 10 years and a Tampa City council member for four more. (This makes it hard to know what to call him: Rev. Scott? Chairman Scott?) He has been a candidate for mayor and recently was edged out of the race for county elections supervisor in the primary. Notably, he is part of a lawsuit against voter law changes that cut early voting days from up to 14 to eight. Early voting on the Sunday before the election — "souls to the polls" Sunday, he says —was also eliminated.

"The whole idea is to deter African-Americans and Hispanics from voting" and "to suppress the vote in the November election," Scott says, in case you wonder where he stands on this and other efforts to limit voting.

At a downtown lunch spot favored by the powerful and political where I suggest we meet, Scott, 58, is stopped, hugged and administered enthusiastic handshakes by a dozen other diners before he gets to the table. He may also be the only person in the room who, when the snapper and soup are set before us, bows his head to bless the meal.

These days he is trying his hand at political consulting, mentoring young people interested in public life and preaching Sundays at his 34th Street Church of God. It's hard to imagine Tampa's political landscape without him, so what next?

Tallahassee? Probably not. He has seen the capitol up close and come away appalled at how "you had to kiss everybody's ring." (Others might use a less elegant, more graphic visual, but he is a pastor.)

Another local office? Commissioner Mark Sharpe term-limits out in two years. Scott's not saying, but he pays attention to these things, who's likely for which seat and which voters turn out where. If you have any political wonk in you, hearing him handicap races is never boring.

But here's what really bothers him: Apathy, and the idea that any eligible adult cannot muster the enthusiasm to cast a vote.

"The very right people went to jail for, died for, had water hoses and dogs turned on them for. The suffering and the bloodshed," he says. In his voice you hear the preacher he is, but also the son who went with his mother all those years ago to see that her vote counted.

Comments
National security strategy plan paints China, Russia as U.S. competitors

National security strategy plan paints China, Russia as U.S. competitors

WASHINGTON — A new U.S. national security strategy plan presents China and Russia as competitors that want to realign global power in their interests, potentially threatening the United States, Trump administration officials said Sunday.President Don...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Trump says he isn’t considering firing Mueller

Trump says he isn’t considering firing Mueller

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Sunday that he is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller even as his administration was again forced to grapple with the growing Russia inquiry that has shadowed the White House for much of his ...
Published: 12/17/17
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Published: 12/16/17
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Published: 12/16/17
CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

Trump administration officials are forbidding officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases - including "fetus" and "transgender" - in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.Polic...
Published: 12/16/17
Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

A Democratic candidate hoping to flip a hotly contested congressional seat in Kansas has dropped out of the race after allegations that she sexually harassed a male subordinate resurfaced amid her campaign.Andrea Ramsey, 57, who was running to unseat...
Published: 12/16/17
Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17
With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Friday secured enough votes to pass the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, putting them on the cusp of their first significant legislative victory this year as party leaders geared up to pass a $1.5 trillion t...
Published: 12/15/17
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Published: 12/15/17
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Published: 12/15/17