ORLANDO — ORLANDO — To Rick Scott, Republicans are doing “the right thing” in Florida.
That means come November, “we have every right to win every election,” the GOP governor said.
Scott, seeking a second term in Tallahassee, likely against former Gov. Charlie Crist, rallied a few hundred Republicans at the party’s annual meeting Saturday, all while attempting to quell a debate that raged Friday night about educational standards.
Scott trumpeted his administration’s gains in job growth and education, and he urged unity within the party searching for common ground on some issues.
“We’ve got to tell our story,” Scott said. “We have to win these elections. Elections have consequences, and if we elect the wrong person, just look at what’s happening in Washington.”
Scott’s appearance came one day after a divide among executive committee members over Common Core, the federal education benchmarks established with input from state officials. Opponents of the standards argue they’re a federal intrusion into classrooms run by states and local school boards, while advocates say the benchmarks will help improve student academic performance.
Committee members voted Friday night to oppose Common Core in what Collier County Republican Executive Committeewoman Christine Sutherland described as a “heated” meeting. The vote, however, is non-binding for the party, and Scott said state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will roll out Florida-specific recommended changes to education standards next week.
“We’re not going to have the federal government tell us how to do our education system,” said Scott, who did not take questions from the media Saturday.
Scott’s stance satisfied Sutherland, who said Scott made clear his intentions not to cede control of local- and state-run curricula.
“That was so important to hear because we had such a heated discussion (Friday),” Sutherland said. “It put a little water on the fire.”
The gathering kicks off a new year for Scott as he seeks re-election. Polls show Scott trailing Crist, the former Republican governor turned independent U.S. Senate candidate turned Democrat gubernatorial aspirant, by several percentage points, but supporters Saturday said messaging will sway voters.
“We’ve got one hell of a story to tell. This is a story that is real,” Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry said. “These are real numbers when you look at what’s happening at the state of Florida. There’s no way to spin this.”
Curry cited Florida’s unemployment rate, which has fallen from 8.9 percent when Scott took office in January 2009 to 6.2 percent as of November 2013. Many Democrats have said the drop is more attributable to President Barack Obama’s policies.
While Republicans took several swipes at Obama over his health care policy, jobs record and the national debt, the focus Saturday was squarely on Scott’s re-election.
“The road to the White House in 2016 runs right through Tallahassee in 2014,” said Peter Feaman, the state’s Republican National committeeman. “And that means re-electing Gov. Rick Scott.”