With Rick Scott leaving the governor’s office in January, Enterprise Florida is preparing for life without its biggest supporter.
The business-development agency, which Scott has helped defend from attacks by the Florida House, has been working “back channels” with the campaigns of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum to make both more aware of the agency’s reach and roles.
“Obviously, Enterprise Florida, where we go will have a great deal (to do) with who wins the governor’s race,” Executive Vice President Mike Grissom, who made the back channels reference, said Tuesday, without expounding on just how each candidate could be expected to reshape the agency.
Enterprise Florida President and CEO Pete Antonacci expressed a little more confidence that there won’t be dramatic changes regardless of the winner of the Nov. 6 gubernatorial contest.
“I continue to be optimistic about people when they are exposed to a set of facts, a set of facts could be persuasive,” Antonacci, who was Scott’s general counsel at the end of the governor’s first term, told members of the public-private agency’s Executive Committee. “I think we’ll be able to persuade the next governor of the value that this board provides and the value of the organization.”
The agency’s 62-member board of directors includes the governor, who serves as the chair, and six of his appointees.
Former staff members from the agency are working for both campaigns, and Grissom offered advice Tuesday to get local business officials to meet with House and Senate candidates.
“The best time in the world to get in contact with your state representatives and state senators is when they’re first getting in,” Grissom said. “We’re going to have a nice big crop of House members this year that we have an opportunity of getting to early and talking about economic development.”
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who will leave office in November, has been a major critic during the past two years of state funding for economic-development incentives and Enterprise Florida.
Corcoran’s successor, incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, is expected to take a similar stance on opposing direct incentives for businesses.
Scott clashed with the Republican-dominated House over the incentives issue until a compromise was reached that resulted in the governor getting an annual $85 million pool to spend on regional infrastructure and worker-training programs.
Neither DeSantis nor Gillum is expected to match Scott’s support for incentive money.
GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES GO GREEN
With red tide and toxic algae causing major water-quality problems in many coastal areas of the state, DeSantis on Wednesday timed an airboat tour of the Everglades with a rollout of an environmental platform.
Highlighting his “unique relationship” with President Donald Trump, DeSantis offered some general plans for the state’s springs and beaches. Also, he vowed to oppose oil drilling off the state’s coasts; push lawmakers to ban fracking; reestablish a task force on red-tide outbreaks; and back Everglades-related issues such as completing a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
Democrats quickly attacked the environmental record of DeSantis, who resigned his congressional seat this week to focus on the gubernatorial race.
Democrats highlighted reports in which DeSantis was dubious of the state undertaking efforts to mitigate climate-change impacts and his co-sponsorship of a congressional proposal to block federal oversight of waterways and wetlands.
The timing of DeSantis’ Everglades excursion came after the Florida Conservation Voters --- which includes supporters of a successful 2014 constitutional initiative that raised state funding for land and water preservation --- endorsed Gillum.
“Around the world, Florida is known for our beaches, parks, and remarkable natural areas,” Aliki Moncrief, executive director of the group said in a statement. “Sadly, we are also now known for letting entire ecosystems collapse due to lenient laws and little oversight.”
PUTNAM TO ‘WORK HARD’ UNTIL THE END
After losing the Aug. 28 Republican gubernatorial primary to DeSantis, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam continues saying his focus is the remaining four months in the Cabinet post.
Asked for the second time in a week what is next for him, Putnam, a longtime elected official despite being only 44, maintained Tuesday that his goal is to “work hard” in his current job “to the very end.”
“I went back to work the next morning,” Putnam said, referring to the day after the primary. “There’s lot to be done.”
Asked about remaining in public service, he said he’s “focused on being commissioner of agriculture”
Putnam, who is from Bartow, was first elected to the state House in 1996. He moved to Congress four years later, where he served five terms before being elected to his statewide office in 2010.
CAMPAIGN RULE #1: REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE
A self-congratulatory news release after DeSantis selected state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez as his running mate may have showed that members of DeSantis’ campaign had his Democratic opponent on their mind.
“What They're Saying: Ron DeSantis Chooses Jeanette Nuñez As His Running Mate,” The headline of the Sept. 6 release said.
The next line read: “Today, Andrew Gillum announced Jeanette Nuñez, Speaker Pro Tempore of the Florida House, as his running mate for the Florida Governor's race.”
Such stuff happens when you’re pumping out ink on tight deadlines. Still, DeSantis’ camp wasn’t alone.
On the night of the primary, the campaign for Democrat Nikki Fried was in a celebratory mood when --- after defeating two opponents to become the party’s nominee for agriculture commissioner --- it released a gem that said, “Fort Lauderdale, FL – Nikki Fired has officially taken the Democratic race to become Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”
Maybe they were Fired up.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson just now: ‘There is no corruption in City Hall.’ ” --- Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout (@fineout). A long-running corruption probe has gained additional attention as Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum runs for governor.