Gov. Rick Scott avoids questions about campaign problems

– Gov. Rick Scott had a lousy week, and it didn't get much better Friday.

He couldn't even get a TGIF moment from a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to mark the opening of the new Interstate 595 express lanes, something that normally would be a feel-good photo opportunity.

A contingent of political reporters converged on Friday's ceremony — not for the express lanes, a project that started under former Gov. Charlie Crist's administration and which opened two days earlier to extensive media coverage — but to ask about problems in the campaign.


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Scott didn't oblige. He took questions for 81 seconds and avoided direct answers.

Among the questions: "How badly do you think you've been damaged by what happened this week?" Scott responded by talking about job creation and positive statistics about Florida schools. "We're doing really well. We're on a roll," he said.

After three questions about his political situation, Scott said, "Thanks everybody. Have a nice day."

In recent days:

•A $1 million donor quit as Scott's finance co-chairman, ripping the campaign on his way out. Leaked emails from billionaire businessman Mike Fernandez, detailed problems within the campaign organization.

•A Miami-Dade Expressway Authority member resigned that post and Republican Party positions, expressing dissatisfaction with the governor and support for Fernandez. Scott said the board member, Gonzalo Sanabria, quit only after learning he wouldn't be reappointed; Democrats said that's not true.

Also this week, another poll showed Scott trailing Crist, 43 percent to 39 percent. Though the St. Leo University Polling Institute survey had a relatively large 5 percent margin of error, it was one more bit of unwelcome news.

The Scott and Crist campaigns spent the week squabbling on Twitter and in press releases about which side wasn't telling the truth — even about how much was being spent on television and Internet advertising buys. Despite the frenzy, a bad week for one candidate doesn't signal doom, said Sean Foreman, a political scientist at Barry University.

"This is a minor blip in the scheme [of things]. Campaigns often have internal turmoil," Foreman said. "It usually blows over relatively quickly and without much damage. As far as scandals go, I think this is a minor one."

Foreman things the Fernandez issue went into overdrive this week because there's a hunger for the campaign, which has been focused on candidate fundraising, to get started. "The feeding frenzy has begun. Anything that they can nibble on, they're ready to take a bite."

It's going to happen again and again between now and November. "We're going to see a lot of little things like this blown up."

Video of Gov. Rick Scott's back and forth with reporters in Davie at SunSentinel.com/BrowardPolitics.

aman@tribune.com, 954-356-4550