Two Tampa House Democratic candidates offered some rare praise for Gov. Rick Scott on Friday — before ultimately giving him a barely passing grade (depending on grading policy at the school you attended) at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum on Friday.
“I will tell you one of the positives of the Rick Scott administration was the mindset that he came into office with, and that is to make government smarter,” said Tampa land use and zoning attorney David Singer, running in the House District 60 race versus Republican Jackie Toledo. “Now there’s a difference between theory and execution, and I think there may have been a shortcoming on some of his theories, but that’s not to say he came into office with bad intentions.”
Singer appeared at the event on Friday with the two candidates running in the House District 63 race, Republican Shawn Harrison and Democrat Lisa Montelione. All three were challenged by member Rich Piper to say something positive and something not-so-positive about the Florida governor, and assess him a grade after nearly six years in office.
Singer said he wished Scott had accepted the Obama administration’s offer of $2 billion to begin construction of a high-speed rail line that would connect Tampa to Orlando, part of the president’s huge stimulus plan passed in 2009.
And he said the Scott administration’s “contentious attitude” with the White House has worked to the detriment of Floridians, speaking specifically of the current impasse with getting Congress to approve funding for the Zika virus. He gave Scott “a very strong D.”
Montelione gave a passing nod to Scott’s focus on job creation, but said the focus should have always been on quality high-paying jobs, “not the low-wage, part-time, swing-hour jobs that we got.” She had no problem listing his failures, specifically referring to the environment and “the assault on women,” and gave him a D-minus.
When it came for the lone Republican to speak, Harrison joked, “Why do I get a feeling that there’s no good answer for me?”
He then said that Scott came into office back in early 2011 in the unique position of never having served in elected office, having been the “CEO of a very successful company and made a lot of money at that,” alluding to his role as CEO of health care giant Columbia/HCA in the 1990s (a company Democrats never fail to note Scott resigned from in 1997 amid an FBI probe that ultimately led to the company paying a record $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines for Medicare fraud).
“There was a learning curve with the governor,” Harrison mused. “The economy of Florida is doing very well, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Rick Scott has some private sector experience.”
Harrison said one disappointment he had with Scott was back in 2011, when he sponsored a bill on behalf of Lowry Park Zoo that would have allowed zoo animals to be transported to public lands to get a chance to get outside of a confined experience.
“It was widely supported,” he recounted. “I thought smooth sailing, this thing is going to be great … and the governor vetoed it, and I never fully understood why. Governor, how can you be against animals?”
Harrison gave Scott a B+.