Letter to Rick Scott: Give Paula Dockery Her Sit-Down

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: April 6, 2012 3:55 AM
 Nancy Smith 150x207

Nancy Smith

Gov. Scott, I can think of half a dozen reasons why you should hear out Sen. Paula Dockery over the University of South Florida Polytechnic decision. But the one that should motivate you on a personal level? Gratitude.

Gratitude, Governor. Manners, if you like. You owe Sen. Dockery.

Not only was she your sole friend among establishment Republicans in 2010 while the rest of the Republican Party of Florida was chowing down on you like sharks on wounded prey, she is the reason you're in the governor's mansion today.

Dockery was running for governor herself when you popped up. She entered the race on Nov. 4, 2009, challenging Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum in the GOP primary. More than running just against McCollum, Dockery campaigned against the party establishment, at that time in the throes of a scandal about spending campaign contributions -- and that led to the resignation of former RPOF chairman Jim Greer.

Rick Scott and Paula Dockery

Rick Scott and Paula Dockery during a Rick Scott Bus Tour in July 2010.

She dropped out of the race on May 24, 2010, when it became clear that she would be unable to run a financially competitive campaign against your $50 million war chest.

But, maverick that she was -- and still is -- she backed you, Governor.  And she did it openly. She liked you.

Her hat thrown into your ring translated into votes, and didn't you just need every one. A Quinnipiac University poll showed that when Dockery folded her campaign, she had 7 percent of the vote. That 7 percent was a gift to you, Gov. Scott. Had Dockery slogged on until the end -- as many were prodding her to -- would you have defeated McCollum? You won the August primary with approximately 46 percent of the vote, compared to the 43 percent who punched McCollum's ticket.

Oh, yes, Dockery did take a spot on your transition team. But, unless there's a Paul Harvey rest-of-the-story I haven't heard, the District 15 senator from Lakeland never sought a job in your new administration. Not one. Didn't ask, didn't get.

For the votes and the loyalty, Governor, say "Thank you, Paula."

Better yet, say yes to her request. Say it with a gracious invitation for a sit-down at Polk State College/University of South Florida joint use facility. Meet with the students and faculty of USF Polytechnic before you decide whether to sign or veto SB 1994 -- the $39 million bill that would break the campus into the state's 12th university.

Forget any personal indebtedness to Dockery if you must. Hearing her out is plain the right thing to do. She is the state senator who represents the community where USF Polytechnic lives. The people directly affected are her constituents.

And you know her. Did she agree on all your issues or you on hers? Of course not. But you know two very important things about her you like: 1) Paula Dockery is an anti-big-spending conservative who cares more about fiscal conservatism than demagoguing social issues; and 2) she shares your pursuit of a top-class STEM program at this school.

Her April 3 letter asking to meet with you says this:  "... I can assure you that most of my constituents support a science, technology, engineering and mathematics program and a polytechnic, but they do not support immediate independence and losing the USF presence that Polk County has enjoyed for the past 23 years."

Dockery will also tell you the 1,300 students now enrolled at the branch campus need time to adjust -- most of them are not STEM majors. But the bill, if you sign it, will break the school off immediately instead of in the five-or-so years it will take to earn accreditation.

You have a bill here that takes a big bite out of the budget -- $39 million this year alone -- years before the campus is ready to go all out for STEMs.

Your ear and an open mind. That's all a meeting with Dockery will cost you.

Thanks for listening, Governor.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at (850) 727-0859.

Comments (2)

7:16PM APR 6TH 2012
Rick Scott owes Paula Dockery nothing. I was at an event this summer when she came in and sat down. Rick Scott was set to speak and when he did she did not stand and clap. She proceeded to tell me how bad every single idea he discussed. She was a disgraceful excuse for a Senator.

She has this attitude just because she did not get her train to cross certain property in Polk County. Go back and read the stories Nancy, Scott owes her nothing.

However, he owes the faculty, staff and students a set down meeting. The poly tech as it stands now is a bad idea and the state should not be in the business of either bailing out or making a rich senator richer. Of course from what I have seen recently J.D. has nothing to worry about!
Hal Blaine
10:00AM APR 7TH 2012
I think you're wrong, Jimmy. Whatever Dockery did after Scott was elected doesn't take away from what she did for him TO get elected. That is just a plain and simple fact. This columnist is right, the senator is owed.

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