SANTA ROSA BEACH — Gov. Rick Scott kicks off a 10-day statewide bus tour Sunday as he begins the critical stretch run of his U.S. Senate campaign.
Where's the first stop?
Scott's campaign sent out a press advisory Saturday saying the "Make Washington Work Bus Tour" would open at Captain Anderson's, a seafood restaurant in Panama City Beach owned by the family of Jimmy Patronis, Scott's appointee to the Cabinet post of chief financial officer.
Oh, really? Not exactly.
Multiple sources said Scott planned a visit at 11 a.m. Central time Sunday at one of his favorite campaign haunts, The Donut Hole at 6745 U.S. Highway 98 in Santa Rosa Beach. A woman who answered the phone at the business Saturday and who checked with a co-worker said Scott would be there "at about 11" Sunday.
Scott has struggled with transparency issues throughout his tenure as the state's 45th governor — most recently this week.
His campaign didn't tell the Florida media about the Donut Hole stop and only confirmed it after the Times/Herald asked about it.
It just might have something to do with the fact that Santa Rosa Beach is in Walton County, a battleground for a very intense fight over public access to beaches.
Scott is drawing fire from some residents for signing HB 631, which places new restrictions on cities and counties that want to pass local laws ensuring public beach access and is highly controversial in Walton, a reliably Republican county that passed a "customary use" law in 2017.
Public reaction to the bill ran 8-to-1 in support of a veto, but Scott signed it.
"No trespassing" and "private beach" signs have been popping up on the area's famous beaches. More than 800 people attended a meeting on Saturday called by the county to begin the process of adopting a new ordinance allowing public access.
Scott's opponent, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, criticized the law and urged Scott to call a special legislative session to repeal it immediately.
As the controversy over the law raged in July, Scott took the unusual step of issuing an executive order, directing state agencies to not enforce the very law he signed.
Scott's a doughnut maker from way back. He got his start in business by buying two small doughnut shops in Missouri, and it was a staple of his profile in both races for governor.
If enough Walton County residents know that Scott is appearing at a local business, some may show up to protest or to urge repeal of HB 631– not the photo-op the governor's campaign necessarily wants in a battle that polls show is extremely close with Nelson.
Scott's campaign confirmed his visit to the doughnut shop, after initially not saying so.