Team of rivals?
Florida Gov. Rick Scott toured storm damage, including wrecked houses and eroded beaches, along the St. Johns County coastline Thursday, and with him were two likely candidates to replace him as the 2018 GOP nominee.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam were both along for the ride.
As three of the most powerful Republicans in the state, they presented a united front in letting St. Johns County know that the state recognized that the county needed help to rebuild after its second devastating storm in less than a year.
“We are all going to work together,” Scott said, “to bring our beaches back.”
Corcoran likewise spoke the language of unity: “Our message to the First Coast is we’re going to go around, see what needs to be done in the state, and we’re with you. We’re going to recover and rebuild, and we’ll be better off and safer the next time.”
Putnam, likewise, asserted that “events like this often bring out the best in Floridians … Florida’s strong, Florida’s resilient … the First Coast has been here for 500 years; it will be here for 500 more.”
However, with Corcoran and Putnam both vying to replace Scott in Tallahassee, it was perhaps inevitable that questions about 2018 — both the Legislative Session and the campaign — would be asked.
One such question went to Scott and Putnam both, about Speaker Corcoran’s assertion that over $600M in local “pork” projects should be reduced in favor of staunching the state’s hurricane readiness.
Scott said that he thinks it’s “very important” to make sure that taxpayer money is “spent the most important way.”
“I always welcome a review afterward,” Scott said. “I welcome what the Speaker is proposing and what the Legislature will be doing.”
Putnam likewise offered what could be framed as conceptual support.
“This storm resets the state’s priorities,” Putnam said. “From local government to state government and throughout, there’s no question that everybody is reorienting themselves in the aftermath of this storm.”
We then asked the two gubernatorial candidates if hurricanes would be a talking point in what will certainly be an expensive, heavily messaged campaign.
“I think what we’re doing today,” Corcoran said, “is beginning that process of what can we do to make our state safer … that’s the focus; all that other stuff will take care of itself.”
Corcoran added that every county in the state was impacted, and that “hurricane preparedness” will be “first and foremost” in the next Legislative Session, the “driving force over the next four months.”
Putnam noted that “the people who lost their roof, the people who are cleaning up this mess — they aren’t focused on 2018, they’re focused on today. And we are too.”
We gave the Governor an opportunity to endorse Putnam or Corcoran in front of both men and TV cameras from the Jacksonville market.
He chuckled, then pivoted to message about Florida being a tourism state.
Clearly, storm recovery will happen — it always does. But what was clear: both Putnam and Corcoran are keenly aware that the policy discussions of 2017 will have a great bearing on the politics that will follow next year.