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As Democrats Dither, Local Republicans Hail Scott’s 4th Visits to Flagler in 2 Years

| July 9, 2013

It's about networking: Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts handed his Inland Water Navigation District card to Gov. Rick Scott during Scott's visit to Flagler two years ago. Netts will have a chance to schmooze with Scott again this evening. (© FlaglerLive)

It’s about networking: Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts handed his Inland Water Navigation District card to Gov. Rick Scott during Scott’s visit to Flagler two years ago. Netts will have a chance to schmooze with Scott again this evening. (© FlaglerLive)

Gov. Rick Scott makes his fourth visit to Flagler County in two years later today—for a closed-door meeting with business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce at 3 p.m., then a $75-a-plate fund-raising dinner for Flagler County Republicans at the Grand Club at Pine Lakes, in Palm Coast.

Neither event will entail much more than photo-ops and flesh-pressing: the governor, already in re-election mode—his reelection committee pulled in $3.2 million in June for a total of $8.7 million in the first six months of the year—is expected to make no policy announcements or deliver more than stump speeches and amiabilities.

But for local Republicans, landing Scott for their Lincoln Day dinner is the culmination of a swift and remarkable turn-around for a party that not long ago was in disarray, its factions suing each other, its registration lagging behind that of Democrats and politics at risk of being taken over by fringe activists.

In stepped Dave Sullivan, first as a temporary head of the Flagler County Republican Executive Committee, then as its chairman, a position he won by one vote in a bitterly contested internal election that pitted the county’s establishment Republicans against its tea party and Ronald Reagan Assembly insurgents.

But if local Republicans had managed to switch the county’s registrations from a plurality of Democrats to a plurality of Republicans in the last two years (the GOP enjoys a substantial 1,500-voter lead currently), tea party and Ronald Reagan activism—which put a lot of people on the streets, knocking on doors and filling out registration cards—had a lot to do with it. That same activism also had a lot to do with switching Flagler from Barack Obama’s column in 2008 to Mitt Romney’s in 2012. But the county’s four Republican clubs had something to do with it, too. Palm Coast has its own Republican club, so does the county, A Young Republicans Club was just chartered. And the executive committee lords it over them all (but not the tea party of the Ronald Reagan Assembly).

Sullivan’s task was to keep channeling that energy without either alienating its soldiers too much or getting away from a more inclusive sort of Republicanism.

“We have to make strides that way, or we can’t sustain nationally,” Sullivan said in an interview Monday. “So I’m trying to make us an inclusive party. That’s not easy sometimes. But we can’t be a single issue party. We have to be a party that spreads a large umbrella and that’s inclusive.”

Sullivan explained what he meant, with the sort of nuance that can more ideological Republicans cringe: “I would say we need to hold to our Republican traditions, which is small, effective government, and some kind of lid on both taxes and spending. However, we do need the government. We cannot become a laissez-faire state. We do have to have a fairly substantial government.” It’s a matter of combining smart governance with a foundation of a strong educational system, a strong economy and strong support for the business community, Sullivan said.

Sullivan attends the quarterly meetings of the state Republican party, where he kept pressing for a visit by the governor. “It took some persistence but we finally got him,” Sullivan said. “Given where we were, I think it’s pretty good that we were able to land the governor, coming to Flagler County. I think it’s a good sign we’re making progress as a party here.”

Local Democrats, meanwhile, have been in a disarray of their own, minus the creatively confrontational energy that’s served Republicans better: internal jealousies continue to pit the Democratic Executive Committee against its Democratic Club. Democrats have just two seats on the County Commission and one seat on the Flagler County School Board. Heather Beaven, the Democratic candidate for the second time for the local congressional seat, ran an uncompetitive race against the ideological extremist and unknown but very well funded Ron DeSantis, and former County Commissioner Milissa Holland, the Democrats’ best hope, lost a close race against Travis Hutson for the newly created House seat representing Flagler County, a loss at least in part attributable to Democrats’ own divisions. In all, a near-disastrous performance for local Democrats in what had been a purplish county, and with no sign of a turn-around in the near future.

The local Democratic Executive Committee, headed by Dan Parham, is running a deficit, according to its latest financial report, limping along on donations by Ronald Szymanski’s Marketable Enterprises real estate company (which provides office space for the party) and Parham’s own donations. The group took in $880 and spent $997 in the first quarter of the year. On top of that, the party had to pay a $50 late-fee for filing its last financial report past the deadline. Parham did not return a call Tuesday. The local Republican Executive Committee from April to June took in over $2,000 in contributions (including $600 from the state Republican Party), spending $1,540.

Some 100 people are expected at the Lincoln Day dinner this evening, which should raise upwards of $8,000 for the local Republican Party. The governor is expected at 6:30 p.m..

He’ll be coming from a round-table meeting with business leaders and local government officials at the Chamber of Commerce. The chamber had little to do with it: the governor’s office called the chamber, looking for a venue where Scott could hold his meeting. The chamber offered, and made suggestions as to who might also attend, among those the executive committee of the county-wide chamber (Scott Sowers, Garry Lubi, David Fowler, Lea Stokes, John Subers , Margaret Sheehan-Jones and Sal Passalaqua).

The governor also invited one representative from each local government—only one, because the Scott could not have kept the meeting closed to the public had more than one elected official from a government agency been invited. That would have run afoul of the state’s sunshine law. Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts, Flagler Beach City Commissioner Jane Mealy and County Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin are among those scheduled to attend. Helga van Eckert, the county’s economic development director, was also on the guest list.

“He specifically wanted to talk to job creators and just really get an idea of what the needs are for Flagler County,” Chamber President Rebecca DeLorenzo said. She was especially pleased with the governor’s repeated visits. In previous years, the chamber had tried in vain to attract governors to the county, she said. “Regardless of what people’s different feelings about the governor, good bad or indifferent, at least he pays attention to FC.”

Scott made his first visit to the county during the wildfires of 2011, in June that year. It did not show him at his best: he projected a more aloof attitude than that of an executive genuinely curious about the devastation on the ground. The visit had the brevity of a flare. Two months later he was back for a more extended stay, speaking with business and government officials at the chamber in an open meeting, when Scott was beginning to battle the perception that he was too distant, with dismal approval ratings to show for it. His approval has recovered somewhat since, with his June numbers his best yet. In February, he was back in Flagler County to mark the opening of a new company, Coastal Cloud.

“We’ve developed a very strong relationship with the governor’s office and Enterprise Florida in promoting economic development not just for Flagler County but for the region,” van Eckert said. “He’s acutely aware of the Coastal Cloud project but we’d like him to know that Flagler has made some great strides in economic development, and we’d like him to notice that, that we’re an up and comer. A community to watch.”

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18 Responses for “As Democrats Dither, Local Republicans Hail Scott’s 4th Visits to Flagler in 2 Years”

  1. Nancy N. says:

    Ahh, so that is what the stench is around here today.

  2. NortonSmitty says:

    “Sullivan’s task was to keep channeling that energy without either alienating its soldiers too much or getting away from a more inclusive sort of Republicanism.”

    Well,maybe he could start by not having a closed door meeting. Or better yet, please someone bring in a hidden camera like the waiter in the famous Romney 47% fundraiser so we can all see just what these bastards really say when nobody is around.

  3. Geezer says:

    His lowness is visiting Palm Coast today. That explains the sulphur-like odor which envelops us
    this otherwise fine day. Time to break out the garlic necklaces.

  4. Robert says:

    I now have a clearer picture of why this county and city are so jacked up.

    Its the government spending is out of control crowd…… unless the spending is something for them.

    “He specifically wanted to talk to job creators and just really get an idea of what the needs are for Flagler County,” Who are the job creators? They must be in hiding. If Scott doesn’t have an idea of what Flagler County needs he should try looking at the lasted employment figures.

    The clowns/clones in this county can’t wait to vote for him once again.

    • Magnolia says:

      @Robert: I think you are correct, sir. If he is looking for the jobs creators he certainly won’t find them at the Chamber. This Chamber is too busy making profits off of local development. They all supported the Democrat on our Council, Mr. DeLorenzo.

      Politics makes strange bedfellows.

  5. Merrill Shapiro says:

    I don’t think that divisions within Democrats had anything to do with Milissa Holland’s loss! I do think that Flagler County would be a much better place if we had elected a Governor who would have accepted the billions of dollars being offered to our region for high-speed rail, a Governor who would have accepted billions of dollars for Medicaid expansion, a Governor who gives more than lip service to our need for jobs, jobs, jobs!

  6. Marissa says:

    Hey! Maybe he can give us that 8.7 mil for our new City Hall Scott has collected in the last 6 months. Maybe City Manager Landon can rub arms with him tonight.

  7. Will says:

    Whether you like Governor Scott or not, the fact that he’s visiting Flagler County again is probably good for the county. More traction and interaction with the state government forces working to build and bring jobs is better than less. Among Florida’s 67 counties, there are likely many which haven’t had a visit from Gov. Scott, so some attention is better than none by a long shot.

  8. m&m says:

    Your other choice is that washed up turncoat Crist.

  9. No Name says:

    @MerrillShapiro:

    Everything you said about wanting a governor who should have accepted millions and millions of dollars for random unnecessary programs is exactly what we DONT need. We dont need a train running across the state it would not make money. By excepting that money we would be further and further in debt. Instead Scott has put us on the path to reduce and get out of debt. You cant borrow forever, for what ever reason democrats dont seem to understand that.

  10. nyy says:

    Save us from this man and the republican!

  11. Brian says:

    At least I know where Crist stands on his views towards the residents of Florida. He did a superb job during his last term as Governor.

    Now we have Governor Scott, who every time he opens his mouth reminds me of driving along I-95 past the long closed landfill on Old Kings Road! Then again, the landfill had a more pleasant aroma than the BS pouring out of the mouth of this snake in the grass!

  12. Realty Check says:

    Yes but he is meeting with the same people who cannot get anything going business wise in this county, they are all a bunch of want to be politicians.

  13. Willy says:

    At a time when conservatives at the state capital are trying to cut and redirect the funds of Firefighter’s and Police officers pensions, Arizona is mourning the loss of 19 men who died protecting homes. Conservatives disgust me. They are doing all this while preaching family values and religion.

    Want to save tax dollars? CONSOLIDATION… you have 3 seperae agencies in Flagler County providing Fire and Police Protection. It’s a waste. Consolidate garbage and recycling services, building and Fire inspections, and code enforcment. Consolidate the Road and Bridge department as well as public works.

    • Brian says:

      That will never happen Willy. Each of the different entities want their independence from each other. How else can they validate the need for lavish budgets and higher taxes? Palm Coast will NEVER consider merging with the County for any service unless they get to control it themselves. Flagler Beach has already shot the idea down, as will Bunnell is given the chance.

  14. Magnolia says:

    Lots of interesting comments here. Maybe the thing to remember is that having a Governor visit our city/county is a good sign that he is interested in what our issues are, what we would like to see. And he is interested in listening to everybody, not just the Republicans. He’s not going to hear that unless he visits.

    So I will appreciate the visit, no matter what party he is. Hasn’t that created enough problems for this country? It used to be that none of our politicians every visited Flagler. How many visits did Crist make?
    How many times has Rubio been here? Nelson always sends his staff. I didn’t elect them.

    Each visit is a start, a possibility. I’ll take it. He’s listening to us.

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