Elections

At Tampa campaign stop, Hillary Clinton takes aim at Gov. Rick Scott

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa on Thursday.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa on Thursday. Tampa Bay Times

She could end up facing Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, but on Thursday former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made Florida Gov. Rick Scott her target of choice.

“It makes absolutely no sense,” Clinton said of Scott’s 2011 decision to turn down $2.4 billion in federal funds to develop high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando.

If she is elected, she told about 600 people inside the theater at the Ritz Ybor, she will revisit high-speed rail for the area and support infrastructure projects to create jobs at Port Tampa Bay.

She also mocked the Scott administration’s directive to state employees not to use the words “climate change” and pledged to support renewable energy in Florida. When Republicans say they can’t talk climate change because they’re not scientists, there’s a solution to that, she said: Talk to scientists.

Clinton portrayed her likely Republican rivals as ready to roll back abortion rights, marriage equality and Planned Parenthood, while giving the National Rifle Association anything it wants.

So when people ask her who she wants to run against, Clinton said, “given what they’ve all said, I will take any one of them.”

Clinton’s lunchtime rally came hours before her Democratic rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, was scheduled to hold his own get-out-the-vote rally Thursday evening at 7 p.m. at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Sanders, fresh off an upset win in Tuesday’s Michigan Democratic primary, is expected to speak about 7 p.m.

At the Ritz, Clinton’s supporters said they liked her experience, her chances in the general election and her positions on issues such as immigration and marriage equality.

“Somebody’s got to stop Donald Trump — or Ted Cruz — and she’s the best person to do it,” said Sandra Cunningham, 45, of Tampa. With either Republican, she said, “it’s a matter of do you want a theocracy or do you want a dictatorship?”

Michael McGraw, a 29-year-old event manager from St. Petersburg, said he has supported Clinton since her run in 2008 and said he likes that her support comes “from a diverse range of people.”

“I thought she was ready then, and now, eight years later, just her vast experience puts here way above everybody else,” said Mary Frances Granell, 61, a retired Gaither High School history and humanities teacher from Tampa.

Teresa Rey, 38, took a personal day from her job as a guidance counselor at Chamberlain High School to support Clinton because of her positions on issues that include immigration and same-sex marriage.

“I’ve benefitted from both,” she said. She comes from a family that immigrated to the United States, and “I’m legally married now.

“We have to stop Donald Trump from building his fantasy wall,” said Rey, who said it’s “very concerning that he has so many followers.”

As of Thursday, Clinton led Sanders in Florida by a 2-to-1 margin — 62 percent to 30.5 percent — according to an average of polls by RealClearPolitics.com.

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