The farcical opening to Wednesday’s gubernatorial debate at Broward College furthered the narrative emerging from this Governor’s race — that the sitting Governor who has lived in this state for barely a decade has little respect for Florida’s citizens. The patronizing tone he has long taken in lecturing Floridians about the economy reflects the arrogance of out-of-state elites that have long mocked Florida. The irony of this is of course that Florida itself has become far more mockable in past four years thanks to Scott’s leadership. This Governor tried to avoid debating Governor Crist as often as was required for our citizens make a truly educated and informed decision about both candidates before they cast a ballot. But that is no surprise for someone who has shown an utter contempt for this state’s citizens, its journalists, educators and activists for four long years.
Before I continue this posting I want to state without reservation that I have no issue with the millions of people each year who relocate to Florida from other parts of this country or from abroad. These new residents enrich the experience of being a Floridian and enhance our local culture and our economic wellbeing.
What I do have a problem with, and have a long record of speaking out about, is when people move to this state, particularly from northeast and midwest, and then proceed to look down upon the citizens of this state and to not respect the unique landscape and ecosystem of our state. I believe Rick Scott fits this description. One should not run for the leading office in the state if they do not truly love Florida.
Governor Scott’s lack of historical appreciation and understanding of the unique challenges this diverse mega-state faces is regularly on display when he speaks in public. In four years he has not made the effort to learn more about this state’s singular environment and heritage, instead preferring to hide behind business-oriented rhetoric. But running this state is so much more complicated than simply calling corporate CEOs or giving speeches about attracting new businesses to Florida.
Florida’s record of job creation and attracting of Fortune 500 companies has still lagged behind similarly sized states during the Scott years. Let’s compare Florida’s success at attracting business to other southern states. Virginia has attracted five new Fortune 500 companies to the state in the past decade. Texas, which like Florida has been run by conservative Republicans, has attracted four. Florida has attracted just one, Hertz, and lost one during the same period in Winn-Dixie. While having the fourth-largest population in the country and total Republican control of state government for 16 years, Florida ranks just 11th in the number of Fortune 500 company headquarters. In terms of actual high-wage job creation and attracting new big business to the state, Texas’ Rick Perry and Virginia’s combination of Democratic and Republican Governors blow away Governor Scott. This is despite every tax abatement scheme under the sun being proposed by this Governor, pushed by corporate lobbyists and rubber-stamped by a legislature whose ideological bent prevents them from asking the necessary difficult questions.
Despite the efforts of the reactionary Florida Legislature to continue to cut taxes under the guise of “job creation,” Florida remains an economic backwater when compared to other mega-states and is doing worse than other southern states also run by Republicans in attracting new businesses. The special interest groups that back Governor Scott and the Republican legislative majority have claimed that Florida’s “right to work” status which prevents unions from effectively organizing creates jobs. Yet Florida ranks 43rd in the nation in manufacturing jobs even after Governor Scott pushed through a tax cut on this sector. Florida’s Republicans have also failed badly in attracting high-end service sector job, intellectual jobs, engineering jobs or scientific jobs.
Like many who grew up in the north, Governor Scott has taken an utterly patronizing tone towards Florida’s citizens that he has demonstrated time and again with his claims of knowing how to create jobs and attract business. His only qualification to be governor of this state, considering he has not lived here long enough to truly understand or appreciate it, was to be a job creator. But he has failed in that regard, and his lack of understanding of our state’s other challenges combined with his contempt for the public interest of Florida has been on full display in both gubernatorial debates.
By contrast, Charlie Crist is a Floridian. He went to St. Petersburg High School and after a period of time out of state at Wake Forest he graduated from Florida State University. He became a leading citizen of Pinellas County and has been an honest and decent public servant for two decades.
The choice for those who care about this state, revere its past and care about its future is clear. Perhaps this explains why Governor Scott has failed to ever clear 45% in public opinion polling. Governor Scott may have eventually been well enough versed in our state to lead it, but he never took the time to learn and his time should now be up.