Gov. Rick Scott rolled into The Villages on Tuesday afternoon as part of all-out assault in his bid to become Florida’s next U.S. senator.
The visit was part of his 10-day statewide campaign aboard the “Make Washington Work Bus Tour” that started Sunday in the Panhandle area. With the Nov. 6 general election nearing quickly, Scott is entering into the critical phase of his effort to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
Scott’s latest visit to Florida’s Friendliest Hometown got off to a bit of a rocky start when he was more than hour late for his scheduled 1:45 pm. appearance at Eisenhower Recreation Center. By the time he arrived shortly after 3 p.m., many in the crowd had gone home, leaving only about 150 supporters who cheered loudly and applauded several times during his 15-minute speech.
Villager Edna Wales was one of those who stuck around and was excited to hear what Scott had to say.
“I believe in Gov. Scott and I believe in what he represents for the state of Florida,” said the Village of Fenney resident, who also serves as the recording secretary for the Republican Federated Women of The Villages. “I have been behind him ever since he announced that he was going to run for governor.”
Not surprisingly, it didn’t take Scott long to challenge Nelson, though he refused to call his opponent by name.
“I’m running against a guy who’s been there four decades,” he said of the longtime politician from Melbourne who was first elected to the Florida Legislature in 1972. “Four decades and what’s he done for us?”
Scott said Nelson played a role in cutting $716 billion out of Medicare and hasn’t done anything to secure the country’s borders or fix immigration issues. And he added that Nelson has introduced hundreds of bills with very few of them passing.
“You can’t remember any of them,” he said. “He’s never done anything for us.”
Scott, who spoke in the same room at Eisenhower Recreation Center where he’d handed out medals to area veterans in the past, said Nelson is an example of what the Democratic Party has become – big-government socialism.
“It doesn’t work. It’s never worked,” he said. “You know what they say, ‘Socialism is fair.’ The only thing fair about it is we all do badly.”
Scott took a few minutes to tout his record as governor, saying the problems Florida faced when he was elected are similar to the ones that exist today in Washington, D.C.
“The four years before I got elected, 832,000 people lost their jobs,” he said. “Revenues were going down in the state. And over half of the homes in the state were underwater in their mortgages.”
Today, he said, it’s a much different story.
“Even though we’ve cut taxes $10 billion, our revenue is up $20 billion annualized,” he said.
Scott also said his administration has been responsible for record funding in K-12 education, universities, state colleges, the environment and transportation. And he said a third of the state’s debt has been paid off.
“We changed it completely,” he said. “Now we have about 400,000 people moving to the state a year. And we’re on a roll. There’s no place like this.”
As for the upcoming election, Scott said he believes victory is imminent.
“This is ours to lose,” he said. “We’ve got the right message. We’re working our tails off. We’ve already knocked on over 1.5 million doors and I think we’re making over 100,000 phone calls a week. That’s how you win the race.”
Scott said he also expects to see his fellow Republicans fare well in other statewide races.
“There’s no reason we don’t win all of these,” he said. “The other side is big government and socialism. Our side is opportunity for every American.”
Villager Ed Sullivan, who serves with the Sumter County Republican Executive Committee, said he believes Scott will accomplish the same things in our nation’s capital that he did in Tallahassee.
“He jumped on his own jet and made phone calls to companies all over the country to get them to come to Florida,” the Village of Bonita resident said. “He’s going to fight for Florida. The current senator only shows up for photo ops,” the Army veteran added.
Lloyd Weber, of the Village of Charlotte, agreed.
“He wants to make Washington work again,” said the Navy veteran, who served aboard the destroyer USS Strong. “It just seems the Democrats want to impeach this president and there’s no grounds for it. The economy is doing well and people are working.”
As for the differences in Scott and Nelson, Weber said it’s really quite simple.
“He’s a down-to-earth person,” he said. “He’s real and he looks at you when he talks to you. I think that’s important.”