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Gov. Rick Scott visits Bethel Community Baptist

Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer

Sunday, October 5, 2014 11:48am

Two weeks after Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist visited Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Republican Gov. Rick Scott followed suit Sunday morning. Unlike Crist, Scott stayed for the entire church service and shook hands and posed for photos afterward.

When Crist visited the church, he spent most of his time knocking Scott for his cuts to the education budget and for not expanding the Medicaid program, as well as ending a program Crist had started as governor to automatically restore the rights of ex-felons who have served their time.

In Scott's five-minute talk, he didn't mention Crist at all, nor did he talk about his own record as a business executive or as governor. Instead, Scott talked about his childhood growing up in public housing, the son of a single mother who was a devout Christian.

"I never forgot my roots or that Jesus Christ is my savior," Scott told the congregation. "What I try to do today is to help people get jobs." Then he gave out a phone number in Tallahassee for anyone who's looking for a job.

Press secretary Jackie Schutz said this was not Scott's first visit to a predominantly black church during the campaign. Generally, she said, such visits are not publicized in advance so news reporters do not show up to ask questions.

What follows is a transcript of the Rev. Manuel Sykes' introduction, then Gov. Scott's address:

Rev. Sykes: "This morning I know that we are just proud to have an opportunity to have our governor with us this morning. Amen. I'm grateful that I've had an opportunity to meet Gov. Scott and to talk with him and to share back and forth with him about many of things that we have concerns about and just to find out what his heart is all about when it comes to the way he governs and things that he's attempting to do. and I think that it's so important and I shared that with him, that people hear what he believes, what he's all about.

"Because sometimes we can, and you've seen it in my case, people that only know you from news reports and paper articles, they really don't know you, do they? Amen. Now those that don't know you, they only listen to who shouts the loudest. but people who really know you, you can't fool them. Am I right about it? And I've said that to Gov. Scott because in my conversation with him I thought it was so important to ask him those questions that we've only heard from news articles or words of opponents and all of those things that do not really define us as people."

Gov. Scott: "Good morning, please have a seat. It's wonderful to be here. I grew up in the Methodist church, my wife grew up in the Baptist church and of course we got married in the Baptist church because whatever my wife says that's usually what i do. That's how i've been able to stay married. Thanks for the opportunity to be here. I have been blessed my whole life, probably before I was born. I grew up in a family with a mother that was a very devout Christian and a grandmother a very devout Christian. My mom was going through a divorce when I was born so I never met my natural father. I lived in public housing growing up in Illinois and my mom sort of had some rules. She said you're going to go to church a lot -- and you have great singers -- she told me don't sing, so I didn't ruin your service by singing. She said you're going to go to church a lot, go to Methodist church a lot. She said I want you to be an Eagle Scout, so I was. she said I want you to make straight A's, I have a yardstick if you don't. And then she said if you want a job, if you want any money, go to work. So I've worked all my life. And I've been blessed. God has blessed me my entire life.

"We got married at 19. We have two daughters, 29 and 32, and God has blessed us with three grandsons. The first one, he did an ad with me when he was 2 years and 3 months old. He said, 'Grandpa, let's get to work.' That was easy to say, at the time I wanted him to say it, it was impossible, so if you saw him on TV saying that, he was actually eating a cookie when he was saying it, but it looked pretty good.

"But God has blessed me. So I've built companies, but I've never forgotten my roots that Jesus Christ is my savior. So what I try to do today is I try to help people get jobs. That's the biggest thing that helped me in my life, and that's what I try to do every day. By the way, there's 273,000 job openings in the state right now. If you know anybody that doesn't have a job, I can give you the telephone number of somebody to call, we have workforce boards around the state. So if you have a pen, the name is Chris Hart, and he's at 850-410-2315. (Repeats)

"But I just want to tell you it's wonderful to be here. I've had the opportunity to go to churches around the state. And it's always a wonderful experience to listen to God's word. Your singers are outstanding. And I look forward to listening to Rev. Sykes and to hopefully be very, very, very inspired."

Rev. Sykes: "Let's say Amen. I've said continuously that when you go to the ballot, the most important thing is that you know whose name and face go together. That whenever we vote, and we've got to do better. So many times we vote tradition, we vote tradition. If I'm a Democrat, all the way down. If I'm Republican, all the way down. And what my hope is, and also my challenge is that you get to know the people who want your vote and then you decide. But you don't go to the polls and just say if there's a D by their name or R by their name, that's who I'm going to vote for because that's what my generations before me have done. I say that because that's what I used to do. but As I've gotten more involved in the community, I began to realize there are good people and bad people in every party. Amen. And there are people who are Democrats that I don't want to serve me and there are Republicans that I don't. Because it's people, it's people. And those of you that know me, know I just tell it how I feel. That it's so important that people understand you. I'm thankful that Gov. Scott has come to share with us. Busy schedule, we're not the biggest church in the world, but I appreciate his respect for what we do here and for what I've tried to do, enough to come by and share with us. Amen."