Rick Scott, Florida Legislature: Are they kindred spirits?

4:52 PM, Nov 5, 2010   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Florida -- Gov.-elect Rick Scott campaigned as an outsider, but now he depends on some veteran legislative insiders to push his economic plan in Tallahassee.

It doesn't look like that will be a problem, according to Florida's incoming Senate president.

Sen. Mike Haridopolos says he shares the same conservative philosophy as Scott on government and the economy. Haridopolos predicts the two leaders will get along well, because they both want to focus on the economy and creating jobs.

"We all share the philosophy that he espoused on the campaign trail and now we all have the opportunity to lead.  There's been a lot of criticism of Republicans and Democrats and politics in general, but the good news is that Rick Scott and I have been very cordial.  I've been very supportive.  You saw how aggressively I supported him in the campaign."

That support raised some eyebrows, because Haridopolos strongly supported Bill McCollum before the Republican primary and then quickly embraced Scott immediately after the August election.

Haridopolos says he wanted to be loyal to his friend Bill McCollum but once the voters spoke, he supported Scott as the nominee.

"I've known Bill McCollum for over 10 years and when he chose to run for governor I endorsed him because I think, and still think, he would be a good governor for the state of Florida.  I think he did an outstanding job as attorney general.  I'm a loyal person.  When I get behind someone... I go whole hog for someone.  I'm all in."

Haridopolos predicts the incoming Florida Senate will be one of the most conservative ever seen in Tallahassee.  Twenty-eight of the 40 seats are held by Republicans - the highest number since Reconstruction.

It's the fruition of years of work on behalf of conservative candidates to push the chamber in a more conservative direction, Haridopolos says, and he plans to send a clear message to the world that Florida will not create any new taxes or regulatory burdens for businesses.

"We're trying to give that predictability, if nothing else in comparison to other states that we look better.  That's going to be our overall goal and we're hopeful that when we send this very clear message that we're open for business, that it'll attract those people who came through here in the years past."

Gov.-elect Rick Scott is aiming to create 700,000 jobs across Florida in seven years.  Haridopolos is less willing to predict a number for his job-creation efforts and concedes he's not sure yet what the benchmarks for economic success ought to be.

But he talks about changing the culture of the state to create a climate that's more hospitable to people who want to start a business in the Sunshine State.

Asked if the unemployment rate should be one benchmark to measure success, Haridopolos recites the statistic that one in eight Floridians are out of work and they will judge him, and the legislature, by the jobless rate in the months and years ahead.

But he also expects to be judged on whether Floridians feel that politicians are working for their constituents.

"So many folks, as you look at the election results, felt like the government was against them and I think that fueled a lot of the distrust and uncertainty." 

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Dave Heller

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