Former Gov. Rick Scott exited the Tallahassee stage before Tuesday’s ceremonial inauguration of his successor was finished.
Scott had plans in the partially shut-down Washington, D.C. and wasn’t there to hear Gov. Ron DeSantis praise the economic foundation he received from Scott.
For Scott, Tuesday’s plans included his own swearing-in as Florida’s junior U.S. senator. Later, his political committee hosted a black-tie optional fundraiser at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, where attendees were encouraged to drop $10,000 to $100,000 --- depending on the amount of access they wanted at the “Sunshine Ball.”
The way Scott departed Tallahassee brought reports about possible bad blood between the Scott and DeSantis camps --- partly fueled by Scott’s decisions during the final days of his administration to make dozens of appointments to courts, boards and commissions. The DeSantis camp made clear the new governor will rescind at least some of the Scott appointments.
"I can confirm that we asked Scott to stop making appointments weeks ago. He ignored us," U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is close to DeSantis, said in a text message
Since the November election, when Scott made a terse public statement outside the governor’s mansion about an election recount as he battled for the U.S. Senate seat, Scott was mostly absent from Tallahassee.
He took time to send letters to each of the legislative leaders he worked with: Florida Senate presidents Mike Haridopolos, Don Gaetz, Andy Gardiner and Joe Negron and House speakers Dean Cannon, Will Weatherford, Steve Crisafulli and Richard Corcoran. The letters outlined the state’s accomplishments, with a focus on the reduction of state debt by a third.
On Monday, Scott posted a photo of himself and now former First Lady Ann Scott inside the top of the tower of the Old Capitol, where he signed his name. Later, he hosted a party at the governor’s mansion, which delayed some of the new governor’s moving plans.
Scott also scrawled a letter --- this time in blue Sharpie --- on Rick Scott Governor letterhead stating, “Florida, Serving as your Governor has been the honor of a lifetime and the best job I have ever had. I will never stop fighting for you! Rick Scott.”
The handwritten letter, sent out of the governor’s office, was accompanied by 136 pages of actions undertaken by the state since Scott took office in 2011, including tax cuts, transportation funding, changes in education and health care, growth of the Florida Lottery and tourism, a reduced crime rate, increased support for the military and responses to hurricanes Irma, Maria and Michael.
Amid all the pomp surrounding DeSantis’ inauguration, a lot was made that about the lack of a parade through Tallahassee to show off the state’s new executive and to let people hear some marching bands.
DeSantis acknowledged before the inaugural he was “a little uncomfortable” with all the different events, but the main reason he decided against a parade was that he and First Lady Casey DeSantis had worked in an afternoon baptism ceremony at the governor’s mansion for their 9-month-old son Mason.
“He was born at the end of March, and I was in the campaign,” DeSantis said during a pre-inauguration prayer breakfast at the Alfred Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center on the campus of Florida A&M University. “There was never really a good time to do it. So, we just said, ‘Let’s get through the election.’ And once that was over, we figured what better time to do it than here.”
Water gathered by the DeSantises from the Sea of Galilee in Israel was saved for the occasion, he said.
SPOTLIGHT FOR THE NO. 2
Inauguration days, which come every four years, are a chance to reflect on Florida’s history and the people who have led the state.
DeSantis’ inauguration provided a brief spotlight for a group of leaders who have held a significant but often obscure post: lieutenant governor.
Jeanette Nunez became the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in state history on Tuesday when she became Florida’s newest lieutenant governor. And to share her inauguration ceremony, four former lieutenant governors joined her on the stage on the east side of the Old Capitol.
They included Gov. Rick Scott’s two lieutenant governors, Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Jennifer Carroll; Jeff Kottkamp, who was Gov. Charlie Crist’s lieutenant governor; and Bobby Brantley, who was Gov. Bob Martinez’s lieutenant governor.
Including Nunez, they represented five of the dozen lieutenant governors who have served since Florida re-established the position in the 1968 state Constitution.
The job of the lieutenant governor is significant because the No. 2 is ready to take over if the governor is incapacitated or leaves the executive post. That last happened in 1998, when Buddy MacKay became governor after Gov. Lawton Chiles died with less a month left in his second term in office.
However, since the lieutenant governor has no other legally prescribed duties, some have been relegated to the sidelines by the governors. That does not appear to be the case with Nunez, a former House leader. DeSantis has made it clear that his lieutenant governor will play a key role in his administration.
The Republican Party of Florida is teed up to elect a new chairman when it meets this weekend at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando.
And if Vegas was taking odds, the leaderboard is just Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican who over the past decade made the Sarasota Republican Party a go-to place for national GOP figures, including President Donald Trump.
Trump was named twice --- in 2012 and 2015 --- by the county party as “Statesman of the Year.” Trump responded by making Gruters a co-chair of his 2016 campaign in Florida and earlier this year appointed the Sarasota Republican to the board of Amtrak, the passenger rail service that has the federal government as a majority-owner.
Gruters said Tuesday he’s 95 percent certain he has the votes to take the helm of the state party.
The remaining 5 percent? “The field,” Gruters said.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “It was Scott's prerogative indeed, but now @GovRonDeSantis has his own prerogatives. He should respond in kind by rescinding every lame duck appointment and reconsider each on merit!” state Sen. Tom Lee (@TomLeeFL) after Gov. Rick Scott made dozens of appointments in his final days in office.