A look at the week in Florida politics, from a television ad featuring a Ford Pinto to Democrats trying to reach out to rural voters.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s 2018 midterm election is one of the most important in years. The governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats are open, Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, several congressional seats will be competitive and Floridians will vote on 13 proposed constitutional amendments, ranging from property tax cuts to banning greyhound racing. The following are items of political interest from the past week:
DISCO BALLS, CHEAP GAS AND NELSON
Republican Gov. Rick Scott continues to hammer away at Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson as a career politician, this time with a television ad that flashes back to the 1970s.
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The ad begins with a flashing disco ball and a photo of an ad for a Ford Pinto, a model that’s been defunct since 1980, and a headshot of a much younger Nelson.
“In 1978, the Ford Pinto was the best-selling small car in America, gas was 63 cents a gallon and Bill Nelson was elected to Congress,” an announcer says while 70s-style theme music plays in the background. “Forty years later a lot of things changed, but Bill Nelson is still in Washington.”
That’s when the image shows a Pinto rotting in a junkyard, a sign showing gas selling for $2.79 and a photo of a much older Nelson.
The ad, however, continues a significant error: It states that Nelson has been in Washington for a “half century.”
In reality, Nelson has split his time in Washington and Tallahassee over that time period. Nelson was first elected to the Florida Legislature in 1972 and then to Congress in 1978. In 1990, he lost a bid for governor and left office. He was elected insurance commissioner four years later and held that job until he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000.
Scott’s campaign, however, isn’t apologizing for the mistake.
“He was first elected 46 years ago, went to Washington 40 years ago,” said Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Scott’s campaign. “That’s about a half century – a few years less.”
GOING UP THE COUNTRY
Florida’s Democrats are heading out to the state’s smaller counties and rural areas in an effort to reach out to voters who traditionally vote Republican.
The tour started this past week in LaBelle where Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Terrie Rizzo met with candidates and voters from Glades and Hendry counties. President Donald Trump won the two counties in 2016 as did Gov. Rick Scott two years previously and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.
Democrats say they are planning future stops in northwest Florida and in smaller counties in the central part of the state.
Party officials say they are trying to convince voters that Republican policies on health care and education have not helped them while the GOP has been in control of state government.
“People in every corner of Florida have been harmed by the decisions of Florida’s GOP,” said Rizzo.
The sudden interest, however, in rural voters was ridiculed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the leading Republican contender for governor, who called it an election-year gimmick.
“Floridians in our beautiful small towns will see right through liberals’ get-out-the-vote efforts,” said Putnam.
GOING TO THE DOGS? RING BLASTS CABINET SCHEDULE
Democratic candidate for chief financial officer Jeremy Ring blasted Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the three Cabinet members for significantly scaling back their number of meetings. Only seven in-person meetings were scheduled for 2018, compared to 20 in 1999, Republican Gov. Jeb Bush’s first year in office.
And Ring, a former state senator, said they’ve also not doing significant work.
“What’s been on the agenda of the … meetings that have actually taken place? Unfortunately, not much — mostly award ceremonies and Attorney General (Pam) Bondi’s promotion of offering dogs for adoption,” Ring said in a campaign email.
He’s proposing that the Cabinet meet at least once a month.