What a difference four years makes.
Rick Scott was a little-known health care executive running in the 2010 Republican primary for governor against Bill McCollum, the attorney general and former U.S. House member. McCollum had the backing of the Republican establishment, but Scott tapped into the 2010 tea party fervor and upset him.
Now Scott is the incumbent governor with the solid backing of Republicans who opposed him four years ago. He faces token opposition in the Republican primary and already has spent millions on television ads attacking his likely opponent in November, the former Republican governor turned Democrat Charlie Crist. The outsider has become the insider. The multimillionaire who spent more than $70 million of his fortune four years ago to win the Governor's Mansion now raises millions in campaign cash from the special interests he once criticized.
Scott, 61, became more attentive to the state's needs in this election year. Florida finally will spend more per student this year than when Scott took office, although it still is less than in 2007-08 when Crist was governor. Scott steered more money to restoration of the Everglades and advanced road projects in Pinellas after agreeing in 2013 to build substructure to support rail along a new Howard Frankland Bridge. He signed into law the legislation that will allow undocumented immigrants who graduate from Florida high schools to pay in-state tuition at colleges and universities, which will help thousands of families.
Those election-year achievements do not make up for the significant damage Scott has done to Florida in areas ranging from voting rights to environmental protection, from politicizing the judiciary to failing to take billions in federal dollars for high-speed rail and Medicaid expansion. But voters will have to wait until November to hold Scott accountable for his record. The governor's two Republican opponents are not credible alternatives. Yinka Abosede Adeshina, 42, is a former pharmacist in Tallahassee. Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, 60, previously ran unsuccessfully for the Florida House, the Sarasota County School Board and for governor. The Sarasota resident founded the Miss Latina Program, a mentoring program for teen Hispanic girls, and formerly hosted a TV program promoting Hispanic culture on a Sarasota station. Republicans have only one realistic choice. In the Republican primary for governor, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Rick Scott.