Florida Gov. Rick Scott began his second term Tuesday with a call for bipartisan cooperation and a commitment to make the state a worldwide leader in creating jobs.
Scott took the oath of office on the steps of the Old Capitol under a cloudless noon sky before a crowd of more than 2,500 people. The guest list included two fellow governors, Rick Perry of Texas and Chris Christie of New Jersey.
“Let me start by reiterating something I said on election night: The campaign is over,” Scott said. “We must all turn our focus toward governing, and toward serving the people of Florida. And that means all the people. Republicans, Democrats, independents — all of Florida’s nearly 20 million citizens.”
Scott’s tone in remarks prepared for delivery marked a sharp contrast from his recent re-election campaign, the most expensive race for governor in Florida history dominated by months of relentlessly negative TV ads.
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“Sure, there will be differences of opinion,” Scott said. “But there are many things that we can come together on, and we should not let partisan politics, or any politics for that matter, get in our way.”
His rejection of partisanship also marked a change for a governor who has repeatedly said over the past four years that “everybody should be a Republican.”
Scott, 62, is the second Republican governor to be elected to back-to-back terms, along with Jeb Bush.
He emphasized the need to create more jobs, hold the line on college tuition and cut taxes. The governor who began his first term four years ago by rejecting $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail also called for spending $25 billion on roads over the next five years “to further our economic growth.”
“We have an ambitious agenda to keep Florida working and become the global leader for job creation by the year 2020,” he said.
Scott made no reference to the issue that has captured the attention of many Floridians in recent days: the legalization of same-sex marriage in Florida.
The inauguration included testimonials from four Floridians who have found work including Sunday Delgado, of Tampa, who was hired by insurance giant USAA after a two-decade career in the Air Force.
The festivities kicked off Tuesday with a prayer breakfast at Florida A&M University, where clergymen and community leaders sought spiritual help for him to lead with strength and compassion.
“God has called upon you to lead us,” FAMU President Elmira Mangum said at the start of the 90-minute event as she called on Scott to govern with “strength, courage and a tender heart.”
On a 37-degree morning, hundreds attended the breakfast at Jake Gaither Gymnasium, home of the FAMU Rattlers basketball team, where a giant floor-to-ceiling American flag was hung from the rafters.
The breakfast co-chairs included several pastors along with former House Speaker Dean Cannon, a Tallahassee lobbyist; former state Sen. Pat Neal, a Bradenton real estate developer; and Orlando lawyer John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council and a leading opponent of same-sex marriages in Florida.
Pastor Pam Olsen of the International House of Prayer in Tallahassee urged Scott to protect all Floridians, “from the unborn to the elderly.”
Scott’s daughters, Allison Guimard and Jordan Kandah, read passages with quotes from legendary coach John Wooden and a prayer by St. Francis de Sales.
The keynote speaker, Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University in Naples and a former Catholic missionary who worked for Mother Teresa, recalled attending a similar event in 1991 when his mentor, former Gov. Lawton Chiles, took office. Towey later directed faith-based programs for President George W. Bush.
“Wherever you look, you see Floridians who are struggling, including countless families in search of stable employment and housing — a cause to which our dear governor has devoted his administration,” Towey said.
Guests praised Scott and voiced hope for more of the same in his second term.
“I think he’s done a great job with the economy,” said Brooke Renney, who worked as a field director for Scott’s campaign in eastern Polk County. She said her family has benefited from the Florida G.I. Bill, a Scott priority to make higher education more affordable for veterans and military personnel.
The only prominent statewide elected official who did not attend the event was Attorney General Pam Bondi.
The governor’s hometown pastor, Kirt Anderson of Naples Community Church, made the only reference to the brutal campaign between Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, which ended with Scott winning by 1 percentage point, 48 percent to 47 percent. Anderson referenced the most bizarre moment of the campaign, a debate where Scott failed to appear on stage for seven minutes after his advisers protested Crist’s use of a portable fan on stage.
Peering around the podium and pausing for dramatic effect, Anderson said: “I thought I was going to get a fan.”
Perry was mobbed by guests as the breakfast ended, and said he came to the inaugural “for a friend,” Scott. The two governors have good-naturedly competed over job creation for the past four years, with Texas still leading Florida.
“Rick Scott has got Florida on a trajectory that’s pretty envious,” Perry said.
Scott and the three re-elected members of the Cabinet were sworn in to new four-year terms in ceremonies at the Old Capitol. The guest list included former Florida Govs. Wayne Mixson and Bob Martinez.
He issued an open invitation to people in several big states to come on down where the weather is warmer and taxes are lower.
Said Scott: “I have a message today to the people of New York, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and others: move to Florida!
“We want you to keep more of the money you make because we understand it’s your money. We want your businesses to grow and succeed. We want to compete globally and win. Over the next four years, I will be traveling to your states personally to recruit you here. In Florida, we are in the business of growing opportunity for families, not growing government.”
Herald/Times staff writers Michael Auslen and Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report.
Contact Steve Bousquet at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7263.
Gov. Rick Scott’s inauguration
When: 11:20 a.m. Tuesday, swearing-in ceremony begins.
Where: East steps, Old Capitol.
On the Web: http://thefloridachannel.org/