FORT MYERS — Rick Scott has been a businessman most of his life — from selling TV Guides as a kid and running a donut shop as a young entrepreneur to building the world’s largest health care conglomerate.
On Monday, during a brief campaign stop in Fort Myers, Scott, 57, vowed to bring common sense business practices to Tallahassee if he is elected the state’s next governor. And like a businessman, Scott said he is campaigning as if he’s on a job interview — a long, sometimes contentious job interview.
“I know what its like to run a small business and start a small business form scratch, and have to worry about making payroll every day,” Scott told about 80 people in attendance at a Lee Republican Women Federated luncheon in Fort Myers, “and I know what it’s like to run a big business. And ultimately, its the same issues you deal with, and it always comes down to, government impacts you. Their regulations impact you. Their taxes impact you.
“At a time when we’re all trying to build jobs, which is the biggest problem we have in this state, the government has a dramatic impact on our ability to do that.”
Scott, who jumped into the gubernatorial race in April and has since taken the lead over state Attorney General Bill McCollum, spoke for about 20 minutes, and answered a few questions from the audience at the end.
Wearing a blue blazer, blue shirt and red tie, Scott seemed upbeat and affable during his brief appearance, joking about his former donut business, and mixing his business acumen with a guy-next-door charm. The son of a truck driver who struggled to pay the bills, Scott, who is now a multi-millionaire, said he knows what it is like to be poor during holidays.
Scott described himself as a principled man of his word and an “across the board conservative,” who, if elected, would focus on job growth and being accountable with tax dollars.
“The way you do that is you focus on making sure you control the size of state government, you control all the fees, you control all the taxes, you make sure every tax dollar is spent well, and you focus on families,” he said.
As someone who has never run for political office before, Scott said he brings “change” to the table. He did not discuss the accusations of Medicare fraud against his former company, Columbia/HCA, and was not asked about it.
Scott spoke during the lunch break, before a scheduled appearence by Lee County’s Republican school board candidates. Judy O’Donnell, past president of the women’s group, said Scott called and asked to speak to her members.
“It shows he recognizes the Republican women are the workers who, if they decide they like him, will work to get him elected,” O’Donnell said.
Renie Frank, 64, of Fort Myers, a member of the women’s club, said she came into the luncheon with an open mind. She left with the intent, at this point, to vote for Scott because he is not a “career politician.”
However, Frank said she is concerned by what she sees as the increasingly bitter campaign fight between Scott and McCollum.
“I think it’s becoming nasty,” she said. “I don’t want to hear the candidates attack each other for what they’ve done in the past. I want to know what they are going to do now.”
Rhonda Hendricks, 57, of Fort Myers, asked Scott about cutting out government waste and improving efficiency. Although she is a fan of former Governor Jeb Bush, who has endorsed McCollum, Hendricks said that after hearing Scott speak, she’s now supporting him.
“I’ve got a sticker for Rick Scott,” she said. “I’m going to put it on my car.”
Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills/