Gov. Rick Scott has started losing allies and credibility midway through the first month of his second term.
It all erupted in one politically disastrous week in which Scott:
1. Was publicly accused of being a liar by the former chief of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He says the governor’s campaign last year inappropriately tried to meddle in department business and investigations for political reasons.
2. Estranged fellow statewide elected Republicans in the Florida Cabinet, who began to distance themselves from Scott amid the controversy.
3. Was embarrassed by rank-and-file Republican Party of Florida members who bucked him by refusing to vote in his handpicked party chair. By weighing in on the race — and using arm-twisting tactics — Scott broke his pledge to remain neutral. After RPOF members defied Scott and chose a different party chair, a bizarre scene unfolded at the GOP’s Tallahassee headquarters, where Senate Republican staffers moved out and took $800,000 with them.
If no amends are made, the party chaos and Scott’s isolation portends a rough legislative session and an intra-party knife fight ahead of the 2016 presidential race.
Some Republicans grumble that Scott is trying to use party fundraising to make himself a power player who could blunt the advantages that former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio enjoy in Florida as part of their potential bids for the White House. Scott allies deny it.
Scott’s troubles started Tuesday when the governor and Cabinet were set to choose a new FDLE commissioner because the previous chief, Gerald Bailey, unexpectedly quit of his own accord. At least, that’s what Scott’s team was saying and what Scott was suggesting publicly.
“He resigned,” Scott said Tuesday.
But that wasn’t true, Bailey and others say.
“If he said I resigned voluntarily, that is a lie,” Bailey told the Herald/Times capital bureau, which broke the story. “If he said that, he’s being totally untruthful.”