Rick Scott’s Pinellas problem

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Senator Jack Latvala made an interesting point during last week’s Tiger Bay forum while discussing the situation surrounding Ken Burke not being reappointed to the Board of Trustees at St. Petersburg College.

Latvala made the point that Pinellas has the second most registered Republicans of any county in the state and that Governor Rick Scott would do well to do better in Pinellas County.

Because, as it stands, Rick Scott has a Pinellas problem — a problem which only grow worse if Charlie Crist decides to run for Governor.

Actually, Pinellas — relatively affluent, if not urbane — did not exactly embrace political outsider Rick Scott in the 2010 gubernatorial election. Alex Sink won the county 50% to 45% over Scott despite Republicans Jeff Atwater, Pam Bondi and Adam Putnam winning a majority of the county’s vote on the way to their victories.

Scott has not done much to improve his standing in Pinellas. Scott rarely visits the county, say several Republican elected officials who wish the Governor would come for a Lincoln Day Dinner or some other political rally and not just a ceremonial bill signing.

Scott did not make any new friends in Pinellas with his veto two weeks ago of SRI’s digital algebra program. Not that many had forgotten Scott’s shuttering of the high speed rail project that would have better linked Pinellas with the rest of the state.

The issue of not reappointing Burke to the Board of Trustees speaks to another issue the Scott administration has in Pinellas.  They don’t know — really know — many of movers and shakers in Pinellas.

A well-connected Pinellas lobbyist told me last year that the staff in Scott’s appointments office contacted them for guidance on filling several open position because “the governor doesn’t know any of the people” who had applied.

After Gov. Rick Scott replaced Rod Jones on the Board of Chiropractic Medicine this week, his father Sen. Dennis Jones who has clashed with Gov. Scott over prison privatization, made it patently clear that he would be willing to campaign for another Republican in 2014.

Jones said he expects a primary challenger to arise because of Scott’s low approval ratings.

“If his numbers don’t go any higher, I can’t image he’d run anyway,” Jones speculated.

It’s not a primary challenger Scott should be worried about, rather it’s the specter of Charlie Crist returning that must keep Scott up at night.

If Pinellas’ favorite son decides to run again, we might not see Scott cross the Howard Franklin Bridge to visit Pinellas anytime soon.

Material from the Sunshine State News was used in this report.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.