Editorials

Back to the Governor’s Mansion

The election is over, the politics aren’t. Gov. Rick Scott retained the Governor’s Mansion in his slim victory against his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist. We congratulate the governor, wish him well and hope that this time around, he makes party and ideology subordinate to the needs of all Floridians.

After unrelentingly negative campaigns run by both candidates, the overwhelming reaction on the part of many voters, no doubt, is a sigh of relief. It’s over, and so are the robo calls, the mudslinging and mailboxes full of political junk mail. Unfortunately, the issues were trampled by personalities in a campaign that relegated ideas to an afterthought.

As in his 2010 victory, which he barely pulled off over Alex Sink, Mr. Scott re-enters the governor’s office without much of a mandate — though that absence didn’t stop him during his first term.

Four years ago, other Republicans won by landslide margins, while Mr. Scott beat his opponent in a squeaker. That should have suggested that he had to move to the center and reach out to skeptics who did not buy his message narrowly aimed at his party’s base. But he failed to make the transformation once in office, fueling surveys that showed his entrenched unpopularity.

This time, as he returns to Tallahassee, Mr. Scott should keep that in mind, though the GOP’s legislative supermajority doesn’t provide much incentive for him to modify his course. His focus on bringing new jobs to Florida and improving the economy clearly responds to the No. 1 concern among the state’s voters. That remains the most commendable aspect of Mr. Scott’s tenure. During his victory speech Tuesday night, he rightly praised his lieutenant governor, Miami-Dade’s Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who has been a smart and effective partner.

At the same time, exit polls showed that a majority of voters disapproved of how the governor responded to healthcare reform, which should suggest a significant change in how he approaches the job. The most important part of this effort would be to accept $51 billion in federal funding to provide medical insurance coverage for 1 million uninsured Floridians. Surely this should be part of any effort to bridge the differences between the divided electorate.

Under Mr. Scott, unemployment has dropped significantly. Still, many families can’t make ends meet. Does the state need to raise the minimum wage? We think so, but if the governor and his party have a better idea, they should certainly pursue it. And in the continued push to privatize everything from schools to prisons, he must pay more attention to the quality of services for which Floridians are paying.

In his first term, Mr. Scott had a hard time making the transition from campaign mode to governing mode, and there are many signs that he is still uncomfortable with the transparency requirements that come with holding public office. In his second term, Mr. Scott should remember that Florida has a proud history of open government that the state’s governors must uphold.

And what about the Democrats? That their ticket was led this year by a former Republican governor is a sure sign that what ailed the party in 2010 is still true today.

Four years ago, when Mr. Scott and his party won, we had this to say: “If Democrats in Florida want to avoid extinction, they must deploy more compelling candidates with stronger messages and livelier campaigns. Until they do, Florida will remain a state controlled by one party, and that is not a formula for good government.”

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