Rick Scott has made a habit of picking fights with Democratic governors of other states, trying to lure jobs from their states to Florida. But this week, the Florida governor called out a fellow Republican governor in Georgias Nathan Deal.
Responding to Scott going to the Supreme Court to fight Georgias water use, which is damaging oyster and fishing industries around Apalachicola Bay, Deal hinted Wednesday his Florida counterpart was looking to play politics. He is expected to face a tough re-election battle next year, Deal said, presumably meaning a get-tough act against Georgia could raise his poll numbers.
But Scott has little to gain politically in this fight. Scott lost Franklin County to Alex Sink by seven votes in 2010 and it should be close again in 2014. Truth is, there arent that many votes there. Only 4,061 Franklin County voters went to the polls in 2010, insignificant when compared to the more than 5.3 million Floridians who cast ballots.
Nor would there be much media exposure for Scott on this one. Certainly he might get some nice TV time in Pensacola and Tallahassee, but neither of those markets is hugely competitive. Scott is generally well-regarded in the Republican-heavy Panhandle, while state employees continue to dislike the governor around Tallahassee.
Most Florida voters outside the Panhandle and the Big Bend arent thinking about water conditions and the oyster industry around Apalachicola Bay. There are plenty of voters in Miami and Orlando and Tampa who arent even aware of the problems in Franklin County and Apalachicola. Its one of the least populated parts of Florida and not liable to get much attention outside of its borders When Floridians vote next November, only a handful will think about Scotts lawsuit against Georgia or his fight to improve conditions around Apalachicola Bay.
There is some political infighting on the issue, despite every politician in Florida lining up behind Scott. Bill Nelson can pout about being left out of Scotts media events in Franklin County on Tuesday, but the governor doesnt need to include a potential Democratic opponent in the limelight. Republican Steve Southerland certainly played up the issue this week as he seeks his third term in Congress; that isn't such a big thing: Gwen Graham, his likely Democratic opponent, is also on board with Scotts lawsuit.
Scott has little to gain politically by taking this battle to the Supreme Court, and few voters outside Franklin County will even remember it next November. Deal should recognize that Scott is doing the same thing he is: fighting for the best interests of Florida. There will be many political hot spots and battlegrounds in Florida next year, but Franklin County simply isn't one of the major ones.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.