Gov. Rick Scott received generally high marks for his handling of the hurricanes hitting Florida and its sister territory, Puerto Rico, but his PR team lately has been working ferociously to push back against assorted reports raising questions about his emergency management record before and after the storms hit.
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio joined calls for a congressional investigation into the deaths of 14 Floridians in a sweltering Broward County nursing home. Those deaths have prompted questions, mostly from Democrats, about the Scott administration’s oversight of nursing homes, about his deleting voicemail messages from that nursing home seeking help restoring power after Irma hit, and his administration’s practice of keeping secret from consumers information on nursing home inspection reports.
The Times/Herald has documented widespread problems with emergency shelters across the state, including a 2016 audit of the Division of Emergency Management warning that it was ill-prepared for a major disaster. CBS Miami reported that Scott’s administration quietly entered into an emergency debris removal contract that dramatically increased costs and undercut companies already contracted to do the work. Scott’s office called the report “one-sided” and “false.”
The governor is expected to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018. The political implications of Scott’s leadership before, during and after the storms are likely to linger well after the debris piles are picked up.
Wondering what conventional wisdom holds among Florida’s political elites, we launched another exclusive Florida Insider Poll. Do you expect the hurricanes that hit Florida and Puerto Rico ultimately to be more helpful to Gov. Scott’s reputation or damaging?
Among the nearly 200 campaign professionals, lobbyists, money-raisers and political scientists we surveyed, an overwhelming 61 percent said the storms would help Scott’s reputation. Even among registered Democrats, only one in three said his performance would damage his reputation.
“Rick Scott’s leadership during the hurricane has made the Democrats go bananas. After the storm, I enjoyed scanning my Facebook newsfeed and seeing countless liberals & Democrat friends praising the governor for his strong leadership,” said one Republican.
From a Democrat: “Scott will benefit from his handling of the hurricanes, which was outstanding, but the Hollywood nursing home deaths will be used effectively by Nelson to undermine Scott’s credibility just enough. Nelson hangs on, but the hurricanes made it closer. If we get hit in 2018 by a storm the scope of Irma though, all bets are off. Should Scott handle that storm as well, he probably wins.”
The Tampa Bay Times allows people to weigh in anonymously in the rare case of our Florida Insider Polls to encourage frank assessments from people closely involved in the political process.
“Scott will get credit for pre-hurricane warnings but his post-hurricane response on nursing home deaths, debris removal, lack of proper placement of supplies and not responding to phone calls & inquiries sully the pre-hurricane goodwill,” a Florida Insider registered without party affiliation said. “Voters, however, will remember all the positive pre-hurricane coverage so Scott will benefit.”
Fewer than one in five said they expected the Hollywood nursing home deaths to be a significant liability in Scott’s likely Senate bid, while two-thirds said it would not.
But when asked whether Jeb Bush or Scott was more effective in handling hurricanes, a whopping 67 percent said former Gov. Bush. The registered Republicans were closely divided on that question, while more than 83 percent of the Democrats and Insiders registered to neither major party gave higher marks to Bush.
“This governor projects very little empathy because of his ‘cold fish’ personality and persona and his response, compared to Gov. Bush, was lacking,” said a Democrat. “His secretive way of not allowing the media to access the emergency response briefings so that the public can know exactly what is going on was also poor judgment on his part.”
Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater vowed after Irma that his campaign for governor will accept no political contributions from Florida’s utilities, saying they should spend their money hardening their systems rather than courting politicians. Florida’s utilities have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican frontrunner Adam Putnam.
What’s worse than taking so much money from a controversial interest group that you can be attacked as an anti-consumer, lap dog for the industry? Not receiving that money.
That, at least is the view of most of our Florida Insiders. Nearly six in 10 said a statewide candidate is better off receiving that money and risking political attacks than not receiving that money.
This month’s insiders included:
Mike Abrams, Peter Antonacci, Scott Arceneaux, Donna Arduin, Dave Aronberg, Ralph Arza, Jon Ausman, Tim Baker, Brian Ballard, Christina Barker,Scott Barnhart, Ashley Bauman, Alan Becker, Geoffrey Becker, Samuel Bell, Ron Bilbao, David Bishop, Barney Bishop III, Stephen Bittel, Greg Blair, Katie Bohnett, Anthony Bonna, Rick Boylan, Matt Bryan, Bill Bunkley, Alex Burgos, Dominic M. Calabro, Christian Camara, Reggie Cardozo,Chip Case, Betty Castor, Chris Cate, Kevin Cate, Alan Clendenin, Kelly Cohen, Brad Coker, Hunter Conrad, Gus Corbella, Jon Costello, Brian Crowley, Husein Cumber, Jim Davis, Justin Day, Nelson Diaz, Pablo Diaz, Victor Dimaio, Paula Dockery, Chris Dorworth, John Dowless, Barry Edwards, Eric Eikenberg, Peter Feaman, Cesar Fernandez, Mark Ferrulo, Marty Fiorentino, Mark Foley, Andy Ford, Towson Fraser, Ellen Freidin, John French, Jack Furnari, Joe Garcia, Wayne Garcia, Josh Geise, Dan Gelber, Steve Geller, Brian Goff, Alma Gonzalez, Jose Gonzalez, Adam Goodman, Bob Graham, Shannon Gravitte, Jennifer Green, Joe Gruters, Stephanie Grutman, Ron Gunzburger, Mike Hamby, Marion Hammer, Mike Hanna, Abel Harding, Jeff Hartley, Chris Hartline, Jack Hebert, Rich Heffley, Bill Helmich, Cynthia Henderson, Max Herrle, Mike Hightower, Don Hinkle, Jim Horne, Erin Isaac, Matthew Isbell, Aubrey Jewett, Christina Johnson, David Johnson, Jeff Johnson, Stafford Jones, Eric Jotkoff, Doug Kaplan, Fred Karlinsky, Joshua Karp, Karl Koch, John Konkus, Jeff Kottkamp, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Stephanie Kunkel, Chip MaMarca, Zach Learner, Bill Lee, Tom Lewis, Nikki Lowrey, Al Maloof, Patrick Manteiga, Roly Marante, Beth Matuga, Kim Mcdougal, Darrick D. McGhee, Nancy Mcgowan, Clarence Mckee, Seth Mckee, Jamie Miller, Frank Mirabella, Paul Mitchell, Pete Mitchell, Lucy Morgan, Ana Navarro, Pat Neal, Bridget Nocco, Meredith O’Rourke, Alex Patton, Brandon Patty, Darryl Paulson, Jorge Pedraza, Juan Penalosa, Kirk Pepper, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, Sean Phillippi, Fred Piccolo, Gretchen Picotte, Ron Pierce, Bob Poe, Ben Pollara, Van Poole, David Rancourt, Susannah Randolph, Sam Rashid, Marc Reichelderfer, Andrea Reilly, George Riley, Jim Rimes, Franco Ripple, Terrie Rizzo, Monica Rodriguez, Robin Rorapaugh, Jason Rosenberg, Jason Roth, Sarah Rumpf, Joe Saunders, Tom Scarritt, Steve Schale, Tom Scherberger, April Schiff, Mel Sembler, Stephen Shiver, Bud Shorstein, Alex Sink, Greg C. Truax, Christian Ulvert, Jason Unger, Karen Unger, Greg Ungru, Matthew Van Name, Steven Vancore, Ashley Walker, Nancy Watkins, Screven Watson, John Wehrung, Andrew Weinstein, Susie Wiles, Gregory Wilson, Rick Wilson, Leslie Wimes, Jon Woodard, Jeff Wright, Eric Zichella, Christian Ziegler, Mark Zubaly