State Politics

Protests make Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign bus tour a bumpier ride than usual

Watch as hecklers attempt to disrupt Gov. Scott at Sarasota GOP rally

Gov. Rick Scott was interrupted four separate times during his speech at Saturday's GOP rally in Sarasota. The demonstrators stood on tables, used megaphones and tossed fliers accusing Scott of using "blood money," following reports of vast wealth.
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Gov. Rick Scott was interrupted four separate times during his speech at Saturday's GOP rally in Sarasota. The demonstrators stood on tables, used megaphones and tossed fliers accusing Scott of using "blood money," following reports of vast wealth.

Rick Scott’s “Make Washington Work Bus Tour” came to an end Tuesday in Orlando. It was a bumpy ride, not the smooth and carefully scripted event that Floridians have come to expect from their always-on-message governor.

Could the 10-day bus tour be a metaphor for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign?

As always, Scott took pains to control his message, but he’s not accustomed to being confronted by opponents at campaign events where Scott is used to preaching to the choir.

What Scott encountered was new, but symbolic of this very unusual year in politics: protesters in the Panhandle, hecklers in Sarasota County and enough static in his own hometown that he changed his schedule Tuesday.

Scott, a Naples resident, canceled a bus tour event there Tuesday morning at a local lumber store. The Collier County GOP chairman, Ron Kezeske, told local Republicans Monday night in an email that Scott was scrubbing the event, without exactly saying why, other than that it was due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

“We received word that it was canceled,” Kezeske told the Herald/Times. “We have not heard any update as to the reasoning.”

Chris Hartline, a Scott campaign spokesman, said: “Gov. Scott travels across the state every day and has campaigned in all 67 counties — his schedule is updated regularly and the event you are referring to was not finalized, publicized or noticed.”

Hartline said Scott spent the morning meeting with supporters and elected officials in Naples and Fort Myers. Those events were not publicized in advance to area media outlets.

Yudy Barbera, chairwoman of the Collier County Democrats, did not say a protest was planned at the lumber store, but added: “If we know where he’s going to be, we’ll be there. This is his backyard, and he still doesn’t care how his policies are affecting our county.”

On Monday, Scott was surrounded by chanting protesters at a stop in Venice, a retirement community that tilts heavily Republican.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that Scott attempted to leave an event through a back door, but the protesters were there, irate over the spread of red tide algae in Southwest Florida’s waterways.

Politico reported that Scott flew in his jet to one of his bus tour events. The campaign said he had no alternative because of a previously scheduled day of clemency hearings, but the optics clashed with the idea of a grass roots caravan to meet the people.

Last Sunday, Scott scratched a scheduled visit to The Donut Hole in Santa Rosa Beach, near Destin, where a dozen protesters waited to give him an earful about the bill Scott signed into law this year that many say limits beach access.

Then it was off to Captain Anderson’s seafood restaurant in Panama City, where Scott was met by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and a gang of photogenic kids from an elementary school. On a relaxing Sunday afternoon, Scott refused to take reporters’ questions at his own campaign event, something rarely seen from a candidate on the stump.

The bus tour had its high points.

They included two fundraisers with former President George W. Bush; an endorsement from former Gov. Jeb Bush; a visit from former football coach Lou Holtz; a rally at Gus Machado Ford in Hialeah; a bus ride with the Diaz-Balart brothers (U.S. Rep. Mario and former U.S. Rep. Lincoln); a show of support from bikers in Coral Springs, and take-out food from Sonny’s BBQ.



Contact Steve Bousquet at sbousquet@tampabay.com. Follow @stevebousquet.



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