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  1. Florida Politics

Gov. Rick Scott calls for bipartisan cooperation in inauguration speech

Gov. Rick Scott and first lady Ann Scott listen to remarks during the prayer breakfast for his second inauguration Tuesday at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
Gov. Rick Scott and first lady Ann Scott listen to remarks during the prayer breakfast for his second inauguration Tuesday at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
Published Jan. 7, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott began his second term Tuesday with a pledge to represent all Floridians and a goal to make the state the world's leader in jobs by the time he leaves office four years from now.

Under a brilliant blue sky, Scott took the oath of office at the Old Capitol before a crowd of 2,500 that included two fellow governors: Rick Perry of Texas, Scott's big-state rival in jobs, and Chris Christie of New Jersey, leader of the Republican governors' group that pumped $18 million into Scott's campaign, the most expensive in Florida history.

"The campaign is over," Scott said. "Now we need to turn to governing. We need to do exactly the right thing for all of the families of Florida. That's all the families — Republicans, Democrats, independents.

"Sure there's going to be differences of opinion," he said. "But there are many things we can come together on, and we should not let partisan politics, or any politics, for that matter, get in our way."

The rejection of partisanship marked a change for a governor who has often said that "everybody should be a Republican."

Scott, 62, is the second Republican governor in Florida to win back-to-back terms, along with Jeb Bush.

As Scott extended an olive branch to all Florida residents, he avoided mentioning an issue he opposes that has captured the public's consciousness: the legalization of same-sex marriage in Florida on Tuesday. Across the street from where Scott spoke, gay couples exchanged vows in the Leon County Courthouse.

"It just shows the universe meant for this to happen," said Ayana Powell after marrying Rochelle Cornwall. "It's karma."

Marcy and Rebecca MacDonell wanted to marry on the Old Capitol's east steps — the exact place where Scott was inaugurated. They moved their ceremony to the west steps instead.

Scott devoted most of his 19-minute address to jobs.

The effect on Florida of ending the embargo with Cuba never came up. Nor did health care in the state with the highest number of enrollees under the Affordable Care Act.

"Rick has been incredibly focused on this issue of jobs," Christie said. "He's a very focused individual."

The predominantly white crowd heard the theme songs of all branches of the armed services, then watched as four jets flew in a tight formation over the Capitol after Scott took the oath.

The best front-row seats were reserved for the politically connected, including lobbyists who raised six-figure sums for Scott's campaign. Former Govs. Wayne Mixson and Bob Martinez attended. Some everyday Floridians attended, too.

Chris Peterson, a professional skateboarder who lives in Tallahassee, brought his 5-year-old son, Wyatt.

"It's history," said Peterson, who's not affiliated with either political party and who voted for Charlie Crist. "It's part of being an American. I wanted to come and see what (Scott) had to say to the people."

The hour-long inaugural ceremony featured personal testimonials from four Floridians who have found jobs, including Sunday Delgado, 43, of Tampa, hired by auto insurance giant USAA after a 21-year Air Force career.

Scott said he plans to visit other states in his second term in an effort to poach jobs from them, and he issued a good-natured but blunt declaration to Perry that Florida would overtake Texas as the top job-creating state.

"We're all about competition," Perry said. "I'm thinking Florida State wants to beat the University of Texas as well. Competition is good. It makes us all better."

Democrats accused Scott of falsely claiming to have kept his promise to create 700,000 new jobs. They said his opposition to bigger government rings hollow because last year he signed the biggest budget in state history.

"Floridians are going to be disappointed with four more years of this governor," said party chairwoman Allison Tant.

A nuts-and-bolts governor, Scott pledged to push for $25 billion in road-building over the next several years and to spend more to train young people for careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

He criticized northern states for their high taxes and beckoned their people to come south. He targeted New York, but with Christie seated a few feet away, never mentioned New Jersey, a state rated in some surveys as the nation's most anti-business state with the highest taxes.

"I really appreciated that," Christie joked afterward. "Friendship helps."

Dozens of people mobbed Christie as he walked across the Capitol courtyard, and he spent 20 minutes posing for pictures. Scott quickly disappeared inside the Capitol after his swearing-in and did not take questions at an afternoon event honoring veterans.

Christie brushed aside talk that his visit to Florida is part of a broader strategy to boost his 2016 presidential ambitions.

"It's great to be in a place where it's not 15 degrees and snowing, which is what it's doing in New Jersey," Christie said. "This has nothing to do with anything I might do in the future."

Also sworn in to new four-year terms Tuesday were all three Republican Cabinet members: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has aggressively used the powers of her office to prevent same-sex couples in Florida from getting married but has been trumped by the courts.

Bondi said she was doing her job by defending the Florida Constitution, which voters amended in 2008 to prohibit gay couples from marrying.

"You heard my oath this morning," Bondi said. "It was to uphold the Constitution, regardless. Now, gay marriage is legal in Miami, at least, and in a couple of other counties, and I wish them the best."

The day of festivities kicked off with a prayer breakfast at Florida A&M University, where clergy and community leaders sought divine guidance for Scott.

"God has called upon you to lead us," said FAMU president Elmira Mangum, calling on Scott to lead with "strength, courage and a tender heart."

Times/Herald staff writers Michael Auslen and Kathleen McGrory contributed to this report, which used information from the Associated Press and the News Service of Florida. Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow @stevebousquet.