VIDEO/PHOTOS: Rick Scott stops in Naples during state-wide six day bus tour

Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott, center, addresses a small crowd of his supporters and media at a rally at the his local campaign headquarters in Naples on Thursday, July 22, 2010. Scott, who is on a state-wide bus tour, spoke to a room full of media and his supporters before heading to Venice for another rally. Photo by Tristan Spinski

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI // Buy this photo

Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott, center, addresses a small crowd of his supporters and media at a rally at the his local campaign headquarters in Naples on Thursday, July 22, 2010. Scott, who is on a state-wide bus tour, spoke to a room full of media and his supporters before heading to Venice for another rally. Photo by Tristan Spinski

Rick Scott comes to Naples

Scott stop at his campaign headquarters in ...

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Rick Scott was riding high Thursday.

Floating a few feet off the roadway, Scott rolled into Naples on a charter bus bearing his image and signature campaign slogan, greeted by a small cadre of supporters at his local campaign office.

But aside from the literal lift offered by the massive bus, Scott was also floating on the afterglow of a just-released budget plan that he says will create 700,000 new jobs in seven years through a series of seven steps.

Scott kicked off his statewide, six-day bus tour Wednesday in the Miami area. Thursday, he was met by roughly 50 supporters, and a handful of reporters, at his North Naples campaign office.

His platform points for reducing spending and cutting taxes, still fresh off the campaign presses, received hearty nods, affirmations of “you got that right” and occasional resounding applause, such as when he voiced his support for gun ownership rights.

“I believe in the second amendment because I trust people more than I trust government,” he said.

Many of the people at Thursday’s stop in Naples said they are already Scott supporters — some for several months, some since they met him at the Independence Day parade through downtown Naples just a couple of weeks ago.

“Two months ago I put a (Rick Scott) bumper sticker on my car,” said Dorothy Woods, 70. “I don’t see as many of those around town, unfortunately.”

Woods, a Naples resident, attended the rally with Ina Beiers, who is still trying to make up her mind about who to vote for in the Republican primary. Beiers, 74, said she doesn’t know much about Scott other than what she has seen on television — between his ads and those of Republican opponent Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Both women agreed that people in the Naples area still do not know much about Scott, who is swiftly approaching $25 million in campaign spending to get his message out, mostly through television ads.

A recent poll by Reuters/Ipsos gave Scott a lead of 34 percent over Democratic candidate Alex Sink, who had 31 percent, just barely trailed by McCollum’s 30 percent.

Aside from his appearance in the Fourth of July parade in Naples, Scott had been absent from the public eye in Collier County before Thursday.

Beiers said she thinks Scott waited too long to establish a Naples office, in spite of the fact that it is his home city. Scott’s first documented public appearance was in Tampa, and his first major engagement — before more than 100 people — was held in the panhandle.

But Scott expressed comfort with his level of support in Naples, as well as the visibility of his campaign here.

“This is clearly an important city; it’s my hometown,” he said. “We have supporters everywhere. We are all over the state every day.”

Scott’s “7-step economic plan for Florida” released Wednesday calls for zero-based budgeting with spending limits for agencies, a reduction in government spending, regulatory reform, a focus on job growth, investment in university research, reduction of state-mandated property taxes for education by $1.4 billion and elimination of Florida’s corporate income tax. It was drafted with the help of Jeb Bush’s former budget director Donna Arduin.

Scott promises the reductions will create 700,000 jobs by fostering a more hospitable environment for companies to relocate to and expand in Florida.

But one questioner in the crowd wanted to know why, on his list of priorities, jobs come before education for Scott.

“Without jobs, there’s no taxes, there’s no way we can pay for anything we want in this state,” Scott said. “So that’s why we have to put jobs first.”

Florida education budgets have been slashed three years in a row due to continuing declines in property values, but Scott’s proposal promises not to impose spending cuts on education. McCollum’s campaign was quick on Wednesday to denounce that part of the plan as unrealistic, but Scott insists it can be done.

“Savings from other key components of my seven-step plan will be used to replace those funds so not $1 is shifted away from our schools,” the plan reads.

During the campaign stop, Scott repeatedly underlined his business experience and outsider status as selling points. If the supporters gathered Thursday are any indication, that message is sticking.

“I think he’s a businessman,” said Gina Walker, 33, of North Naples. “He’s business oriented, whereas other politicians are more politically motivated.”

More than anything, Scott seems to represent to his supporters a change of pace for a state beleaguered by foreclosures, job losses, tourism declines, and now, a massive environmental disaster.

“We think he’s a fresh start for Florida,” Walker said. “And that’s what Florida needs, is a fresh start.”

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Comments » 2

volochine writes:

1st comment...on an article posted on 7/22?

This is wierd.

volochine writes:

So 7 years.....700,000 new jobs in 7 steps?

Why couldn't Rick Scott have an 8-step program to generate 800,000 jobs over an 8 year period?

He ignored 100,000 people.

I understand his reluctance to have a 6-step program to generate 600,000 jobs over a 6-year period.

As Madeline Kahn said in "Young Frankenstein"..."Okay, Seven is my lucky number. Come here, you hot monster"

What a con.

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