The best political theater in this state so far this year: arguably, Gov. Rick Scott‘s “Fighting for Florida Jobs” roundtables.
Jacksonville gets its version of the roadshow Monday morning at Harbinger Signs in Mandarin.
Scott started off March in Rep. Travis Cummings‘ district, where he repeatedly jabbed at Cummings and Rep. Paul Renner for opposing Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.
Cummings was just one of many Republican votes against the Scott agenda, however. In Duval County, a few Republicans voted against Enterprise Florida on the House floor.
Reps. Cord Byrd, Clay Yarborough, and Jason Fischer all voted against incentives.
They knew they faced a no-win choice. As someone familiar with the thinking of one of the legislators but it, the choice was between Scott’s veto pen and the Speaker’s opprobrium.
The one Jacksonville Republican supporting Enterprise Florida, Jay Fant, filed no appropriations bills this session. And there are strong indications he may not even want to return to the Florida House in 2018.
Scott typically counts on Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to be by his side at Jacksonville events, such as the job creation events in the past.
Curry won’t be there in this instance; he is on a spring break trip with his family.
Scott and Curry were together at VP Mike Pence‘s business roundtable and rally Saturday in Jacksonville, where both sang from the same hymn book about the Obamacare “death spiral.”
Though it clearly didn’t move the Duval Delegation, Curry issued an extended endorsement of Enterprise Florida a few weeks back.
“Without the state funding,” Curry said, “we would have had trouble closing some of the big deals that we closed.”
Curry is far from alone in Jacksonville’s city hall when it comes to enthusiasm for incentives.
Jacksonville OED head Kirk Wendland explained it this way: “Just the discussion of Enterprise Florida not being there, and not having a state economic development agency, has absolutely affected the deal flow that we have seen over the past couple of months.”
Local leaders note that Jacksonville especially needs incentives, with cross-border competition and not having the unique value adds of Tampa, Miami, and Orlando.
Gov. Scott is making a strategic move: a stand in Jacksonville, an attempt to rally support in a place that relies on these programs, the rare big city with a GOP mayor — and one who is a political ally of longstanding.
It will be interesting to see if this helps more than the one in Clay County did.