Rick Scott outlines policy differences with Ron DeSantis in wide-ranging interview

Scott Telemundo
The Senator talked new abortion restrictions, tuition for Dreamers, and press freedom Friday.

Sen. Rick Scott doesn’t seem to be sold on Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ stated desire to Make America Florida.

In a Noticias Telemundo interview conducted at the Concordia Summit of America by Julio Vaquiero, the Florida Senator stopped way short of endorsing the current Governor’s “Florida Blueprint,” drawing distinctions with DeSantis on numerous issues.

Those issues include in-state tuition rates for DACA immigrant children, a proposed abortion ban after six weeks of pregnancy, and a proposal that would lower the standards in defamation cases and expose media to new risks, which stems from a DeSantis panel discussion about so-called defamation.

Asked about DeSantis’ “immigration proposals,” which include a reversal of favorable tuition prices for “Dreamers,” Scott emphasized that he stands behind the law that he signed that gives those young people parity with other Florida residents.

“I signed legislation that I’m proud of, that said if you’re a child that was brought here by your parents, you’re brought here, you know, not the right way, but you grew up in our system. I mean, you’re a little five year old girl. You came here, you came through our system. I believe if you’re an upstanding citizen, you’re not a criminal, I think you ought to get in-state tuition. I want those kids to do well. And so I would sign that bill today.”

Pressed for a follow-up, Scott doubled-down.

“Well, I’m on the opposite side of that. I think what we have to do is we want legal immigration in this country. We want immigration. We’re an immigration state. We have people from all over Central and South America. And we’re a great melting pot where people get along and they’re part of building this great state. And so I think we’ve got to figure out how we have a legal immigration system that works. I know it starts with a secure border. We’ve got to do that,” Scott contended.

Scott also seemed to think that potential legislative changes that could lead to carrying firearms without a permit went too far also.

“Well, you know, I generally rely on the sheriffs, what they think. And we already have a concealed weapon program that works.”

Scott also would not endorse a “heartbeat bill” that would stop women from abortions after the sixth week of gestation, saying legislation passed last year went far enough in terms of timing and should have included exceptions for rape and incest.

“First off, that’s a tough issue for people. I mean, you really have to be really compassionate about what people are going through, I think where most people are is reasonable restrictions. And probably most people are about 15 weeks with all the exceptions. And they ought to have exceptions for rape and incest and the life of the mother. And so I think that’s where the population is. And that’s I think that’s our state. You know, our state legislation ought to represent that.”

DeSantis said he was he was “willing to sign” such legislation last year, and he said the same thing Tuesday to reporters in Tallahassee, lauding “exceptions” as “sensible” and saying his administration “welcome(s) pro-life legislation.”

Scott also divorced himself from moves in Tallahassee that could roll back free speech protections for journalists, with legislation (HB 991) spawned by a DeSantis roundtable saying that the canonical 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan Supreme Court case was bad law that enabled what the current Governor calls “the drive-by media.”

“I believe in the First Amendment. I’m not familiar with that proposal, but I believe there’s a reason for the First Amendment. I believe you have to have a strong press. I like them to write nice things about me, by the way.”

Scott offered a non-answer when asked if he didn’t “really like the way that Governor Ron DeSantis is running things and some of his proposals.”

“Here’s what I tell people: I’m a kid that grew up in public housing. I was born to a single mom. I live the dream of this country. You know what I want? I want that dream to be true for every kid in the state. And that’s how I think about my job. That’s how I thought about my job as Governor, how I think about my job as a US Senator is how do we make it that this is the state that, you know, every kid’s got a chance to live the dream.”

“So what I focused on when I was governor was [being] the best state for jobs, best state for education, best state for living in a safe community. And that’s what I did. And then to figure out how can we make sure that if you’re here that we can help you. And I don’t want illegal immigration. I don’t think that’s right. But I do want legal immigration. And we’ve got to build this state. I mean, they’ve been unbelievably important to this state. Look at Miami. It’s like sometimes you feel like you get the best and brightest from Latin America that want to come here.”

Asked specifically if Florida was “the blueprint,” Scott demurred.

“Well, here’s what I’m happy about: the state continues to have low taxes. The state continues to improve its education system. The state continues to support our law enforcement. That’s what I mostly focused on when I was governor. We turned the economy around and added 1.7 million jobs. We became number one in higher education. When I left, we were 47-year low in our crime rate. So what I think Florida should be known for, this is a place where you can live your dream.”

Asked again about whether DeSantis offered “the blueprint,” Scott diverted the follow up question.

“Well, I think the blueprint for the future is making sure people can get a job, making sure people get a good education, their kids, because that’s a family’s future. Right. And then make sure they’re in a safe community. I think that’s at the state level. That’s what Americans want at the federal level also. They also want the federal government to be responsive, secure the border, deal with the drug problems, have a lethal military where people are scared of us, but we don’t have to go to war now.”

Scott also punted when asked who he might back in the 2024 Republican Presidential Primary.

I always tell everybody when you’re going to vote for somebody, would you hire them to manage your life? Because that’s what we’re doing. Okay. And so I think what you have to do is you have to look at all the candidates, whether it’s Donald Trump or DeSantis or Nikki Haley or any of them say, what is their background? How did they do the jobs they have now? What’s my concerns about the future? And so for the issues of the country today, who would be the best? And there’s going to be other people that are getting into the race.”

For Scott, the question of who the GOP picks in 2024 is not just academic. The Senator is up for re-election next year, and he has gone on record saying that sharing a ballot with a potential lightning rod Presidential candidate would be a “minus.” What’s clear from the Friday interview is that on many issues, he believes DeSantis is going too far.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


One comment

  • Leonard

    March 11, 2023 at 10:58 am

    Does anyone really care what this clueless, unprincipled putz thinks about anything? He is not conservative. He is not pro-life. He is not pro-2nd amendment. Will a credible conservative PLEASE run against him?

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