Gov.-elect Rick Scott struck the right note Wednesday as he pivoted from first-time candidate to executive-in-waiting of a rock-solid Republican government. The winner of the tightest governor's race in 134 years said it's now his job to serve all Floridians and earn the support of those who did not vote for him. His renewed pledge to end "politics as usual in Tallahassee" is a great place to start.
Scott ran a disciplined, tightly scripted campaign financed by $73 million in family money. He upset a household Republican name in the primary, solidified support from the business community and rode a Republican wave of anger against Washington to general election victory. While he nationalized the campaign with his criticisms of the Obama administration, Scott also promised systemic change in the form of bigger tax cuts, spending reductions and smaller government.
While we disagree with many of his policy proposals, Scott's intention to avoid business as usual in Tallahassee could be constructive. He won the narrowest of victories over Democrat Alex Sink, but voters were much clearer in their demands for change. They approved Amendments 5 and 6 outlawing gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts, a chief weapon the controlling party has used to maintain power. Voters are sick of Tallahassee's self-dealing, and the courts should enforce the new constitutional requirements for drawing districts if the Legislature won't.
A previous Republican House speaker and former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida are under indictment. Several legislators — including incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and incoming Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa — have misled the public on their financial disclosure forms. Scott, who oversaw a hospital company that went on to pay record fines for Medicare fraud, may be an ironic tribune to the cause of cleaning up Tallahassee. But he has been elected governor, and it is up to him to set high standards for a more accountable government.
Scott's best strategy for filling that integrity gap is an unfailing commitment to transparency and accountability. He should set high ethical standards for his leadership team, seek advice from all political persuasions and embrace open government laws to reassure voters their leap of faith has not been misplaced. He also should push fellow Republicans in the Cabinet and Legislature to approve reforms that include campaign finance reform to illuminate third-party groups and tougher ethical standards for public officials.
Supporters expect Scott to deliver on his pledges to cut taxes, reduce state spending, create thousands of jobs and improve education. He also needs to improve accountability and integrity in state government as the self-proclaimed outsider and independent broker.