If the governor and his cronies had promised to wrestle alligators — offering two sets of slimy swamp reptiles thrashing about in internecine warfare — his campaign fundraiser could have filled whatever they’re calling Joe Robbie Stadium lately with paying customers.
It would have been a grand spectacle, for sure, and would have thrust Seminole and Hurricane fans into a rare evening of harmonious accord, the entire crowd cheering for the gators.
A $25,000-a-ticket alligator killing, however, was not such a dandy idea.
It was easy to figure how Gov. Rick Scott got the notion of staging an alligator hunt as a campaign fundraiser. Last spring, U.S. Sen. David Vitter advertised a “Louisiana Bayou Weekend,” in which $5,000 bought you an airboat ride, Cajun cooking and the chance to join in an old-fashioned Louisiana alligator slaughter with a senator previously known for bagging high-priced hookers.
Last weekend, Vitter took to Facebook to post a heartwarming photograph of his bayou weekend: him kneeling on a bloody boat deck amid a prodigious pile of slain alligators; perhaps a message to would-be interlopers who might be tempted to disrupt the senator’s plans for the 2015 governor’s race.
It was only slightly less grisly than the press conference images of the senator with his wife, Wendy (her facial expression reminiscent of a terrorist hostage), as he feigned contrition for his commerce with the D.C. Madam.
Florida politics, however, are not quite so beholden to the legacy of Huey Long. Look, we don’t much mind Rick Scott’s unseemly record in the hospital industry. After all, Medicare fraud’s a major industry down here in Florida. But cavorting with prostitutes and killing alligators just don’t go down so well without jambalaya and Tabasco sauce.
Scott’s PAC, “Let’s Get to Work,” had sent out lovely invitations to high rollers: “You are cordially invited to join Governor Rick Scott for a private gator hunt, October 18, 2013, New Smyrna, Florida. Contribution amount $25,000. Space is limited.”
But when Scott’s reelection staffers saw that photo of Vitter grinning amid a slew of dead animals, they must have imagined a similar photo of killer Rick and, with a shudder, realized that in Florida his public standing wouldn’t be much better than one of those belly-up alligators. Those scaly creatures may be unwanted varmints in Louisiana, but hereabouts (unless one of them happened to have dined on your poodle or your granny) alligators command a certain affection.
Besides, they may be the only creatures keeping the pythons from slithering out of the Everglades and taking over Sweetwater City Hall (not that anyone would notice).
The Vitter photo was posted Sunday. By Tuesday, Scott’s campaign couldn’t remember a thing about the New Smyrna Beach affair. Huh? What $25,000 private gator hunt?
Canceling the fundraiser also saved Scott’s staffers the pain of explaining to sure-nuff gator hunters how the governor’s rich buddies were able to scarf up so many state alligator-hunting permits. For regular folks, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission holds a lottery in which “everyone will have the same chance of being awarded a permit.” The commission reports about 10,000 applicants clamor for 5,000 alligator hunting permits issued each year. The gov’s exclusive gator hunt would no doubt generate 5,000 angry votes for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.